'Spoofing' scams steal your phone number; How to protect yourself from robocalls

Rule No. 1: Don't answer strange calls
Posted at 3:52 AM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 08:02:39-04

"Radio Phoebe" Kushner is the assistant program director at Hot 101.5 in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. She is used to spirited phone calls. And yet a recent ring, on her personal phone no less, was odder than usual:

"Oh, she was so mad," says Kushner. "She just said that she was sick of me harassing her every day, and that if it happens again, I will hear from her lawyers."

Kushner soon realized she was the victim of "spoofing.”

Telemarketers, scammers, or worse, are using low-tech devices to disguise their phone numbers to fool other people into answering their calls.

Kushner can sympathize with the lady who thought she was calling her. She receives bogus spoof calls daily from an 813-area code number that differs by a different final digit each time.

Spoofing is illegal. Although most phone calls are relatively harmless, all are annoying and some can even be dangerous if personal information is revealed.

Even the head of the FCC gets spoof calls. The government agency is vowing to stop them.

Consumer protection lawyer Billy Howard says the best way to thwart spoofers is also the simplest way.

"Do not answer the phone, because all of a sudden you are now a live lead,” says Howard. “Those live leads are more valuable than not answering the phone."