Special Report: Ghost Call Buster
Patience is running thin across the Tri-State over unwanted calls.
The Federal Trade Commission logged four million complaints about them last year.
Before you start lashing out, we want to show you what’s really happening and how you can stop it.
TRI-STATE (WFIE) - Oakland City resident Dennis Smith says he's been getting plenty of those unwanted calls.
“I’m very careful what I say to certain people, said Smith. "I don’t say anything more than I want them to know.”
“What these people are doing is spoofing where it’s coming from. said computer expert Alex Huber. "So it appears you’re calling me, but that’s not really what’s happening.”
Many of the calls are originating from outside the U.S. which makes it more difficult to prosecute.
Whomever is behind the calls, Huber says, they are people who would love to collect useful information about you to potentially steal from you.
They know there’s a greater chance you’ll pick up, if the number on your caller ID closely resembles your own.
It works. That’s actually how Jackie Monroe met Dennis Smith.
She got a call from his phone number during the news one day, and on a whim she called back.
Smith says he never called Jackie's phone.
For him, the trouble with telemarketers and robocalls is temporarily over. That’s because his wife accidentally scorched his phone in a kitchen accident.
“Burned. On fire, said Smith. "It melted all over the place. It took awhile to get that stuff off the stove too."
Experts say, first, hang up as soon as you realize it’s a junk call.
Don’t press "1" to be taken off their list That just confirms it’s a working number.
Also, don’t be like Jackie and call numbers back.
Huber says there’s a risk that domestic number could be rerouted to a 1-900 or out of country phone number. Then you are on the hook for those charges.
The most important piece of advice, he says, is to get an anti-spam app like "Call-Protect" or others like it which pick up on spam trends and block calls predicted to be from robo-callers.
Finally, experts say, stop picking up phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize. If it’s important , experts say they’ll leave a message.
That’s what Dennis says he plans to do, when his new phone comes in the mail.
Experts say not all "spoofing" is done off shores.
There are heaps of apps anyone can use to spoof calls one at a time.
Since we started this conversation, lots of you have told us about being spoofed.
Calls will sometimes say someone you love is in trouble, or hurt, or in need of money.
People believe it because their caller-ID was so convincing.
Others said they've had death threats from people on the receiving end of relentless phone calls from your number, calls you never placed.
It's such a problem, Vanderburgh Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies are now using social media to educate people about it, in an effort to protect people who may not realize what's happening until it's too late.
A good rule of thumb is before you act, hang up.
If your caller ID just displayed the name of someone you know, then call that person back to verify whether there's a real emergency, or whether they're even trying to reach you.