7 on Your Side tells you how to find out if you're a victim of spoofing

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There is a warning about a growing scam to get you to pick-up a robocall or other unwanted solicitation. Are you seeing more and more calls with local area codes like 415, 510 or 408? 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney shows us why and what federal regulators are doing to fight back

San Francisco Resident, Maida Taylor, picks-up the phone, then says, "No, thank you. We just finished a big remodel. Thank you for your call. Bye." She politely hangs up on a salesperson.

Vallejo resident, Dalt Williams, does the same thing. He has gotten into the habit of not picking up calls from unknown area codes. "If I don't recognize it, I let it go to the answering machine," he said.

Reactions like that, have prompted solicitors to disguise their call on your caller ID as a local one. The Federal Communications Commission calls it neighbor spoofing.

"Because of advances in technology, right now, it's actually very easy for them to send false caller ID information along with the call," said Matthew Berry from The Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC says sometimes the caller ID is a completely bogus number. But other times, it belongs to someone who doesn't realize their number has been spoofed.

Linda Eckman of San Francisco realized that when she called back the number, that came up on her caller ID. "I called somebody else because they called me and they said they didn't call," she said. Her number has also been spoofed. "Somebody is saying that I called them, and I'm saying, nope," said Eckman.

Maida Taylor said she received that spoofed call from Linda's number. Maida says calls like these make people irritable and defensive.
"No, I didn't call you. Why are you calling me? There's an edge to it because every body's inconvenienced by an unwanted or unsolicited call," she explained.

I found out in all of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission received 4,000 complaints about spoofing. After just three months this year, the number of complaints is on pace to double.

"So generally, the purpose of spoofing is two-fold. Number 1? They're engaged in scams, and it's harder to trace back who's doing the scam," said Matthew Berry. "Number two, they're trying to trick you into picking up the call."

The FCC is cracking down. Last year, it levied 200 million dollar in fines against telemarketers accused of malicious spoofing. The fines were the first action of its kind. Now regulators are working with providers to develop technology to authenticate legitimate calls, and block spoofed calls.

As of January 1, phone companies for the first time can voluntarily block calls when the caller ID information comes from invalid numbers.

We contacted Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T. Only AT&T committed to voluntary blocking calls proactively after an investigation. The others pointed to their anti-spam technology which customers must opt into and sometimes pay for.

Click here for more stories, photos, and video from 7 on Your Side.

Written and Produced by Randall Yip
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.