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The Eerie, Persistent Scam That Calls You From Your Own Phone Number

Last week, Slate’s national editor Josh Levin received a call on his cellphone that appeared to be coming from his own number. He didn’t pick up, and afterward his phone log indicated that he had missed a call from someone who was “Maybe: Josh Levin.”

On Thursday, Slate staff writer Ruth Graham received an apparent self-call on her landline. When she picked up, she heard “a robot voice from ‘Microsoft’ saying my IP address had been compromised and I should press 1 to reset.” What made the experience all the more unsettling, Graham says, is the fact that her husband was listed as the caller. It’s easy to find plenty of people complaining on Twitter about getting calls from their own numbers, even in the last few days.

This scam has been spooking people for at least the last five years. In 2014, CBS News reported that scammers purporting to be Microsoft representatives and credit card interest rate specialists were using spoofing technology to make it seem like their targets were calling themselves. Spoofing is a common tactic for robocallers that allows them to trick caller ID systems into indicating that a call is coming from a local number or, in some cases, from one’s own number. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission put out a consumer information notice warning about the self-calls: “No, this isn’t an alternate reality where your future self is calling the present you. It’s a scammer making an illegal robocall.” CNN again covered the phenomenon in April.

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