The local Visiting Angels’ office has been inundated with calls over the past few days from local residents wanting answers about contact that appeared to be from the organization, but staff members believe the College Station phone number is being used by what the Federal Communications Commission calls a “neighbor spoofing” phone scam.
According to Visiting Angels local administrator Claudia Massie, throughout the day Monday, the business’ three phone lines were barraged with calls from area residents. Those who called said they had been contacted by what appears to be Visiting Angels’ main business line. One caller reported being asked to purchase insurance, one was asked about an electric bill and one was asked brief questions.
“The [victims] would tell us that someone had called them using this number, offering to sell something like insurance,” Massie said. “And when the [victim] started asking questions such as, ‘What insurance?’ ‘Where are you located?’ the caller would hang up.”
As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, Visiting Angels had received reports of 26 incidents tied to the phone calls.
Visiting Angels provides elder care and senior home care but does not solicit potential care recipients over the phone, staff members said.
Massie and her colleagues believe someone is masking their true identity and phone number by using Visiting Angels’ phone number. According to the FCC website, this spoofing tactic is described as “when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. ...Robocallers use neighbor spoofing, which displays a phone number similar to your own on your caller ID, to increase the likelihood that you will answer the call.”
While certain forms of blocked calling or “spoofing” are allowed for specific circumstances, the practice is illegal under the Truth in Caller ID Act, according to the FCC, when a call is made with the intent to
defraud or harm someone else. The FCC stresses that no one should answer a phone call from an unknown source, and that if such a call is answered that the recipient should not interact with the caller by speaking, nor by entering numbers on the phone’s key pad.
Visiting Angels’ executive office located in Waco is submitting a police report to the College Station Police Department, according to Lindsey Newman, Visiting Angels client care coordinator in College Station.
“Hopefully, we can figure out the source and find out how to make these calls stop,” she said. “... When we explain to people the service that Visiting Angels provides, most are sympathetic and ask why someone would scam a service for the elderly.”
CSPD spokesman Lt. Craig Anderson said that if Visiting Angels file a police report, investigators can treat the incident as a criminal case if it is determined that the mysterious caller has made a penal code violation.
“If we have suspect information, we will look into the situation,” he said.
Visiting Angels’ local office phone number is listed online as 979-209-0027.