A rise in caller ID spoofing

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It's a great way to screen unwanted phone calls, but caller ID technology is now a tool for scammers to get you to answer the phone and potentially obtain your personal information.

Marjorie Stephens, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Northern Indiana, says that the technique, known as caller ID spoofing, is all too common.

"Ten years ago this wasn't possible, today it is possible, you know and I just think it's going to continue to get worse... It's really growing by leaps and bounds."

So how does it work? Someone calls your phone number while disguising their caller ID as a number in your area code, so that it looks more credible than a totally foreign set of numbers.

The more recent, and more manipulative, twist on the spoof is when the caller finds a way to hide their number behind a specific company or organization you've been in contact with. NewsCenter16 and the Better Business Bureau has already heard reports of people getting scam calls that appeared to be coming from doctors, stores, and even the police department.

Stephens explained that even if you hang up right away, you're not out of the woods yet. "They might call saying you won something in a sweepstakes or a lottery, you can apply for a government grant or you've got a government grant... but once they get that number and they know that it's a live number... they're going to give your number to other scammers."

The best way to avoid a personal number falling into the hands of scammers is to be more selective when it comes to picking up the phone. If a number appears at all suspicious, like if it's from a company you haven't communicated with in a long time, ignore the call and see if they leave a message. If someone is genuinely trying to reach you, they'll most likely leave a voicemail, while a scam artist will move on.

Another action available to you is to sign up for the Do Not Call list. Information is available at in.gov/attorneygeneral/2440.htm

Finally, reporting an incident to the Better Business Bureau gives them a broader understanding of who is calling, and with what aliases. You can reach them at bbb.org/northernindiana/get-to-know-us/contact or by calling 260-423-4433.