Warning: Chances are that's not really your bank on the phone. It's likely a fake caller ID scam

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Friday, August 4, 2023
That's probably not your bank on the phone. It could be a scam
Robocalls were supposed to be a thing of the past by now but phone companies miss federal deadline to block scams and unwanted calls

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Imagine if you never had a robocall on your phone again. It was supposed to happen by now.

A federal deadline has just passed for all of U.S. phone providers to install robo-blocking technology.

Yet, most companies have still not complied. Roughly two billion unwanted calls are still reaching our phones every month - and scammers are benefitting.

MORE: Fake customer service phone numbers connect consumers to scammers

The fraudsters create Google Ads to make sure their fake phone numbers appear at the top of search results.

7 On Your Side often hears from viewers who were tricked by the caller ID into thinking it's really their bank on the phone, or the utility company, or other trusted sources. Then, the imposters swoop in and take their money.

Among them is Ann Booras of San Ramon. She was convinced she was really talking to an officer from her bank -- the caller ID displayed the number right there on her phone. "I got a phone call from you know, Wells Fargo on my caller ID on my phone," she said. "The person on the other end said, 'I'm calling from Wells Fargo...'"

And so Booras believed the man on the phone when he said she had to wire her savings into a new account to prevent fraud --

Instead, she lost all of it. $20,000, gone.

When Donald James saw the caller ID, he too was convinced it was really his bank on the phone. He lost $7,000 to the scammer. "The number on my phone, the caller ID number was identical to the one on the back of my Chase card," James said.

VIDEO: Wells Fargo bankers tell East Bay customer they're too busy to stop wire scam

The victim was still on the phone with the scammer at Wells Fargo, trying to stop the wire transfer -- and the teller said they were too busy to help.

Randy Felkner took one look at the caller ID and was convinced. "I got a phone call that said my electricity was going to be shut off," he said. "The ID screen said that it was PG&E... and so I was like, 'Oh OK better take this.'"

An imposter persuaded him he had to pay an overdue bill or the power would shut off -- so he sent $2,000 supposedly to PG&E. It went straight to the scammer.

Consumer advocate Sander Kushen says scammers are using spoofing technology to make their phone calls appear to be coming from a legitimate person. "This is a very commonly-known practice where they can very easily make their scam telephone numbers look like any number they want," she said. "Whether that's your bank, or delivery service or even that family member, they can call from pretty much any number they want."

Two years ago, Congress passed a "Truth in Calling" act, requiring phone providers to install robo-blocking technology.

When fully implemented, a call using a fake caller ID would never reach your phone.

The Federal Communications Commission gave companies a final deadline of June 30 to install the equipment.

VIDEO: 7 On Your Side catches scammer in the act after he drains woman's bank account

Trying to return a product to Etsy before going to the hospital for surgery, the Oakley woman fell prey to a phony customer service phone number.

About 8,300 were supposed to comply. Only about one-third have installed it.

So those robocalls and scams are still coming through.

A report by California Public Interest Research Group says robocalls have dropped since the law was passed, but we still get a staggering two billion unwanted and scam calls every month.

"There's more that's being done to tackle the issue than a couple of years ago, but it's not enough. Robocallers are continuing to hurt people," says Sander Kushen of CALPIRG.

Consumer advocates are pushing for the FCC to crack down on phone providers that have failed to install the blockers. And the next problem they say, is unwanted and scam "text messages." They are on the rise, and this technology won't help that.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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