Scammers are trying to use the Deschutes County Environmental Health department’s main phone number to hide their crimes, the county said Friday. And in some cases, they claim they are trying to sell vacuum cleaners.
The county said the callers appear to be spoofing — faking the Health Services’ Environmental Health main phone number. This makes it look to caller ID like the calls are coming from Deschutes County.
Some community members have reported being asked to purchase a vacuum cleaner, the county said.
As a reminder, never share personal identifying information with a caller with whom you have not initiated contact or have not verified as legitimate.
If you have fallen victim to this or similar scams and have lost money as a result, contact Deschutes County non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911.
Here is advice from the Federal Communications Commission on how to protect yourself from spoofing:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No.”
- If you answer the phone and the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
- Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics. More information about robocall blocking is available at fcc.gov/robocalls.
Remember to check your voicemail periodically to make sure you aren’t missing important calls and to clear out any spam calls that might fill your voicemail box to capacity.