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Phone scammers target MIT community

Dozens of members of the MIT community reported being victims of phone scams last week, in which they received seemingly legitimate calls from local police departments demanding money.

The scammers often impersonated law enforcement officers from the State Police or the Lexington Police Department and verbally intimidated recipients to pay back taxes, although MIT police say that none of the victims seem to have handed over money. It is suspected that the callers obtained the names and contact information of community members through the MIT online directory, which is publicly available.

The fraudulent callers used a technique known as “caller ID spoofing,” which can easily be done through service providers or with online software. Caller ID spoofing is illegal in most cases except when used by law enforcement and authorized by the court.

These cases are not confined to MIT’s campus. According to the MIT News Office, IS&T employees have identified several other institutions where similar scams are occurring. In Worcester County last month, at least two victims of an Internal Revenue Service phone spoof paid out more than $10,000.

—Ray Wang