A national tracking group estimates that every minute more than 50,000 robo calls are placed in the U.S.
Now those companies are getting trickier, trying to get you to answer their call. They are even be using your number to get someone else to answer.
What's going on?
The sound of a phone ringing causes all of us to stop in our tracks. But, a couple of recent calls to my personal line really threw me off. The caller on the other end said they had just missed a phone call from me. I checked my outgoing call log and showed no outgoing calls to them. One was excusable, but this happened multiple times.
"Unfortunately, we can't trust our caller ID like we used to," said Mark Mattioli with the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection.
Some quick calls to consumer protection groups like the Better Business Bureau taught me hackers were using my phone number to make a robo call. Since we've been researching this story we've also learned someone is falsely making calls that appear to come from one of our televisions stations telling people they've won a contest that they never entered.
How it works:
Dan Buchta with the Better Business Bureau said it's incredibly easy to do. You can download any number of apps, open them up, put in the number you want to call and the number you want it to say its calling from. Just like that you can hide your number or pretend to be calling from somewhere else.
"Probably the most common type of spoofing scam is where they're posing as the IRS," Mattioli said.
And they’re using YOUR number:
There's nothing preventing companies from using your number.
"If they can obtain the IRS's number, they can obtain your number," Mattioli said.
"They do it so the odds of you picking up the phone call are that much greater," Buchta said.
This is legal?
The apps even let you disguise your voice or add background noise, all of which is legal. The FCC allows spoofing as long as the caller is not trying to take something of value from the person on the other line. The problem, Buchta said, is that's precisely why most people use the technology.
"A lot of spoofing is done for the purposes of stealing your identity," Buchta said. "They're looking for your personal information."
Attorney General Tom Fox and 27 other attorneys general are asking the FCC to change their rules, allowing people to protect their numbers from being used in a prank call or worse a scam.
Keeping you safe:
In the meantime, Buchta has this advice to keep your information safe:
1. Never give out any personal information over the phone.
2. If you absolutely need to give personal information out over the phone, ensure you started the call.
3. If you think something is fishy, hang up. Look up the organization's number for yourself and call them back.