The bout of suspicious calls the CNMI is experiencing is part of a larger scam affecting the United States.
IT&E reported the suspicious calls to AT&T, which is investigating. IT&E has received information from the AT&T Fraud Desk that the calls are part of a Chinese Consulate Robocalling/Spoofing Scam that is also circulating in the U.S. and has defrauded people of millions of dollars. Fraudsters pose as the Chinese Consulate requesting payment to deliver a package.
They ask for bank account or credit card numbers. They may also ask for money to be transferred to them.
“We’ve been told that AT&T will be taking action to stop the calls. They’ll continue to update us as the situation develops. Again, the source of these calls is outside of the CNMI and Guam and we remind the community to be cautious of calls from unknown numbers,” said Rose Soledad, general manager of IT&E.
The fraudsters use call spoofing to replicate local phone numbers which appear on caller ID and hide the actual phone number.
They hide their actual number and calls local users with auto dialers.
To avoid phone scams, IT&E recommends not answering calls from unknown numbers and to hang up immediately if such a call is answered. Never share personal information over the phone.
Subscribers with concerns or that would like to report a suspicious call can reach the IT&E Customer Care Center at 682-4483 or visit www.ite.net to send a message.
On March 18, the Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense issued a warning about a similar scam, involving theft of personal information. The callers reported threatening messages that Social Security benefits would stop immediately unless they provided personal information.
Sometimes callers call under a guise of helping to complete a disability application.
The international phone numbers reported include:· (612) 260-4577· (612) 260-0746· (458) 214-2471· (551) 226-6017· (440) 760-0811· (267) 322-2173· (217) 717-2798
The community is reminded to remain vigilant and be aware of impersonation schemes. Be mindful of suspicious calls that do any of the following:
· Call to demand immediate payment;
· Demand that you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe;
· Require a specific means of payment, such as requiring you to pay with a prepaid debit card;
· Ask for personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
· Threaten you with arrest or deportation.
"Nearly all of your financial and medical records are connected to your Social Security number, which is why data thieves are constantly trying to nab it for use in fraud schemes or for selling it illicitly," the Federal Communications Commission said in a public advisory issued in March.
FCC said robocall scammers use spoofing to deliberately falsify the caller ID that appears on your phone, disguising their identities in attempts to steal your Social Security number and other valuable personal information.
Often the scammers spoof a Social Security Administration phone number so you'll think it's the agency calling. SSA blog posts alert consumers to this spoofing scam and new twists phone scammers use to convince consumers they're legit.
FCC issued the following consumer guide on spoofing, such as:
Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on the agency's official website to verify the authenticity of the request.
In addition to protecting your Social Security number, never give out other personal information such as account numbers, your mother's maiden name, passwords, or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
Use caution if you are being pressured for information or immediate payment.