State officials warn of phone phishing scam

State officials warn of phone phishing scam

LANSING – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson urges customers to take care when giving out information over the phone to anyone they do not know personally.

The Secretary of State’s Office is aware of instances in which a person claiming to be a state employee has called asking for credit card and Social Security information. Callers may use a technique known as “caller ID spoofing” so a phone’s caller ID displays a valid number of a Secretary of State office or another state agency. Scammers pretending to be a legitimate business or government agency is often referred to as “phishing.”

Johnson emphasized that the Secretary of State’s Office does not make unsolicited calls to customers asking for personal or financial information.

“Although alarming as this activity is, there are steps Michigan residents can take to protect themselves,” Johnson said. “Any legitimate agency welcomes the chance to verify whether a contact, either in person or by phone, was appropriate.”

In one case, a customer received a call from someone purporting to be an employee of the Alpena Secretary of State office. The caller ID showed a valid state number. The customer correctly hung up the phone and called to verify whether the call was legitimate.

Johnson offered the following tips to help prevent fraud and protect personal information:

  • If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the caller’s claim to be a Secretary of State employee, hang up and call the Department of State Information Center at 888-767-6424.

The Secretary of State’s Office will not:

  • Call and ask for PINs, passwords or access to your bank account or credit card numbers
  • Threaten to suspend your driver’s license or vehicle registration if you refuse to divulge personal or financial information
  • Demand immediate payment to resolve a problem

If you suspect that the caller ID information displayed on your phone has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC. You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:

  • File a complaint online
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (835-5322); ASL Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible) to the Federal Communications Commission; Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau; Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division; 445 12th Street, S.W.; Washington, DC 20554

[Information courtesy the Office of Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson]