Baltimore County Police are warning citizens about a telephone scam that may show our police precinct phone numbers as the call-back number on your caller ID.

Police at Precinct 8 - Parkville recently received a phone call from a confused man who stated he was calling to discuss his outstanding federal taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service. The equally confused officer who answered the phone obtained more details and recognized the man had been a victim of a telephone scam.

The officer determined that the victim was calling back the phone number that was displayed on his caller ID after hanging up on the scammer. The victim had just conversed with the scammer, who he described as a man with a foreign accent advising the victim had outstanding taxes which needed to be paid. The scammer instructed the victim to purchase Google and other brand name gift cards for the payment. When the victim questioned him, the caller became irate and began to use profanity, at which time the victim hung up the phone. The victim then attempted to call back the number on his caller ID and reached the Parkville Precinct.

Residents should be aware that there is no limit to the number of smart phone apps available that allow a user to change the number displayed on another person's caller ID when receiving a call or text. That's because it isn't illegal under most circumstances. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Under the Truth in Caller ID Act dictates:

"FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value.  If no harm is intended or caused, spoofing is not illegal."

Fortunately, there are also call-blocker apps and unmasking apps available for download onto your smartphone to help protect you from these types of scams. The best protection, however, is to become educated about spoofing scams and share that information with our more vulnerable citizens, the elderly and young adults. You can learn more about how to protect yourself by following this link to the FCC Spoofing and Caller ID guide.

Residents are reminded not to share personal identification information or credit card information to anyone over the phone. Legitimate government agencies will never request this information, nor will a legitimate government agency caller yell, use profanity, harass or threaten you over the phone. Never agree to meet someone who claims to be a government agency representative with cash or pre-paid cards of any type.

Read more about similar telephone scams in this recent post from March, Jury Duty Scam is a Phone Call Away.