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News 13 Investigates: The tactic robocallers use to get you to answer

Spoofed calls are illegal under the Caller ID act, but catching who's responsible is tough. (Photo Credit: WLOS Staff)

There's a new tactic robocallers are using to get you to answer the phone.

A News 13 investigation found the practice could be dangerous.

These calls are illegal under the Caller ID act, but catching who's responsible is tough. News 13 is arming you with the tools you need to protect yourself from deceptive dialing.

The problem

“I had this, don't do it again attitude with them,” said Doris Sheehan, a concerned mother in Brevard.

Her attitude was provoked by calls to Sheehan's 14-year-old daughter.

“She has always been told not to answer the calls if she doesn't recognize the number,” said Sheehan.

The calls, but no messages, continued for three days during classes at Brevard Middle School.

“She says, 'Mom, I really don't know who's that is.' And I said, 'Well, it's time to find out,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan called the number and left the following message, “This is my young daughter that you are calling her phone during school hours,” said Sheehan.

Lisa Fort received and played the message for her 8-year-old daughter.

“She's like, 'Well, mom, they've got the wrong phone number,'" said Fort.

So, Fort reached out to the woman who left the message,. Eventually, the two connected over the phone.

“She read me my cell phone number,” Fort said in disbelief.

“I said, 'Well then, how did I get your phone number then if it didn't show up on caller ID?'” Sheehan said.

“It was my word against hers, because she had the evidence on her phone of my number,” Fort said. “It makes me wonder where did they get my numbers from? That's what I would like to know?”

News 13 went digging for an answer. It's called “spoofing”.

What is spoofing

“These are spammers and scammers who call you from a local number it appears, and they want to solicit information from you,” saidd Chad Murden, of Charlotte Street Computers.

Murden explained how spoofers make it look like they're calling you from a local number.

“They'll match the first six digits of your number, the last four digits will be randomized,” said Murden.

Or it's a local number they've been able to verify, like your phone number if you answer the phone. They’ve confirmed your number is real and then they steal it.

“The No. 1 thing they're looking for is active numbers to spam or scam other people. They'll appear to be confirming information, such as a bank confirming your debit card number, they want you to give them that verbal information so they can use it against you,” said Murden.

Charlotte Street Computers said the best way to protect yourself is to not answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number.

How to protect yourself

But how can you protect yourself? Several apps work to identify spoofers. Murden recommends HIYA.

“It just updated 20,000 scammers today. So, every day it's searching for these spam calls and blocking them for you,” said Murden.

It gets tricky if they get your number. There's no way to stop them from using it.

“There's no way of tracking them down and forcing them to not use it,” said Murden.

Instead, like Fort, you may be left trying to explain why you didn't call someone.

“It's scary, very scary” Fort said.

Spoofing is illegal. The FCC can fine someone $10,000 per call, and it has. This summer, the FCC fined one company $120 million.

If you receive a spoofed call, you can file a report with the FCC by clicking the enclosed link.

If you have something you’d like News 13 to investigate, email us at iteam@wlos.com

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