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An Echo Press Editorial: Don't fall for this spoofing attack

Here's another phone scam to beware of: a "spoofing" attack from a caller pretending to be from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Spoofing is a practice used to falsify the telephone number or name on caller IDs to disguise the identity of the real caller.

The health department has received reports of such callers posing as health officials and requesting personal and business information, including credit card numbers. These calls have been designed to appear to come from the Minnesota Department of Health's main phone number (651-201-5700), but the calls are not being made by MDH.

Health department officials urge recipients of suspicious calls to not give out any personal or financial information.

With the increased use of technology that allows people to make calls using the internet, spoofing has become more common, according to the health department.

"This is a type of attack, among many methods, that we are seeing with increasing frequency and sophistication in Minnesota," said Aaron Call, the state's chief information security officer. "This example is demonstrative of the tactics used every day by those intent on stealing our personal information or disrupting the important services on which so many Minnesotans rely."

The health department did send an automated message to restaurants and other licensed food establishments last month regarding a foodborne illness outbreak involving Romaine lettuce, but that message did not ask for personal or financial information that was apparently requested in the spoofing calls.

If you get a call that seems suspicious, don't give out personal information in response to an incoming call. Identity thieves will pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies or government organizations to get people to reveal their personal financial information, the health department said.

The best response is to hang up and call the number on the agency's website to find out if the person or organization that supposedly called you actually needs the information.

Minnesotans can protect themselves by keeping the following in mind:

• Legitimate public health calls do not ask for social security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers.

• Legitimate callers should be able to provide specific, verifiable contact information, such as that of their supervisor or work unit.

• If you have been the victim of identity theft, contact your local police department.