WEST BRANCH – On the afternoon of June 17, the desk sergeant at the Michigan State Police  (MSP) West Branch Post began receiving calls from concerned citizens, reporting that they had received an unusual phone call appearing to originate from the main telephone line of the post (989-345-0956).

The suspicious calls alleged that the recipient was being investigated for human trafficking. Once the citizen began to ask questions, the caller hung up. According to those from the MSP, the voice of the suspicious caller varies between a male and a female.

Authorities say it appears as if the post telephone number has been cloned, commonly referred to as “spoofing.” This is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to one’s caller ID display, to disguise their identity.

Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or government agency that a person may already know and trust.

The MSP notes that, if you answer, these callers use scam scripts to try to steal your money or valuable personal information, which can be used in fraudulent activity. You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed.

The MSP says to be extremely careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information, and they have offered the following tips:

• Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.

• 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.

• Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No.”

• 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.

“Our troopers frequently and legitimately contact members of the public by telephone,” explained MSP Lt. Mike Brown, Assistant Commander of the West Branch Post, which serves those in Iosco, Arenac, Gladwin and Ogemaw counties. 

“If you need to verify the call is originating from the Michigan State Police West Branch Post, get the name of the trooper purportedly calling you, excuse yourself from the call, and call the post at 989-345-0956,” he advises. “The desk sergeant will verify if the call is legitimate. For after hours verification, contact MSP Lansing Regional Dispatch at 517-334-6223, or the local central dispatch center serving the area in which you reside.”