Next time you think a neighbor or family member is calling you, you might have to think twice. Criminal callers can pretend to be someone you know in hopes of getting personal information. They could even be using your phone number to make the calls.
The criminals call from a number with your area code and the first three digits of your phone number to make you think it's someone you know. For example, when Kim Mataya's phone rings with a Waukesha area code, she assumes it's one of her kids or grandkids.
"An elderly woman answered and I told her that I was solicited and the person used her phone number. I think she got a little scared," she said.
It's happening all over the country, and even happens to the people working to protect you from fake calls.
"Our consumer protection hotline number was used, so it's a little bit ironic," said Jared Albracht from the WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, who operates the Consumer Protection Hotline.
Albracht said fake calls using local area codes have been going on for a while. But, now, they're starting to look a lot more like they could be your neighbor.
"You pick up your phone and it's so close to your own you think in some way in your brain it's related to you, it's something important to you and you should pick it up," he said. According to Albracht, it's a ruse to get you to pick up, and not picking up could be the only way to get the calls to stop.
"Any engagement you do besides simply hanging up is basically setting your number up in their computer system as being a number to call back again later," he warns.
Albracht tells the I-Team these phony sales calls made mostly by overseas companies trick Americans out of tens of millions of dollars each year by acting as legitimate businesses requesting personal information. Besides letting the phone ring, Albracht said never give out your personal information.
One local man called the Call 4 Action line concerned he was getting calls from a number inside the Aurora Healthcare System. Aurora tells us if you have any concerns about who might be calling, you can hang up and call back using the phone number from their website.
Mataya feels violated by the battery of calls.
"These people are coming into my home and they're doing it in a way that's dishonest," she said.
Her family has developed their own system. If it's really you, call, hang up, then call again.