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Explaining "neighbor spoof" calls to your phone - and how to avoid them

13WHAM's Matt Molloy looks into these so-called "neighbor spoofing calls" - and how you can avoid them.

(WHAM) -- Your phone rings, the number looks familiar. It's your area code, but on the other end it's someone thousands of miles away. It's the latest trend in phone scams.

For Lauren Reynolds, it started with what looked like a familiar number.

"I just started getting random phone calls from numbers that looked like they were local,” said Reynolds.

The number had a 585 area code. It even matched the next three digits of Lauren’s own number.

"They looked like they could have been family members,” she said.

But on the other end were scam artists using a technology called spoofing.

"They are getting you to pick up the phone with that local number, and they're trying to sell you something over the phone or they are trying to scam you out of money over the phone,” said Melanie McGovern, Communications Director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.

McGovern has received the calls, too.

"I've seen 716-444, My number is 716-444 so you're thinking it might be somebody within our organization, it might be somebody local,” said McGovern.

In these cases, it's called neighbor spoofing. The scam artists spoof a number so close to yours you think it's someone you know.

After Lauren answered one call, they kept coming.

"I received about 20 calls a day from there on out,” said Reynolds.

She got so fed up; she changed her number.

"I had to go through a process with Verizon. They wanted to know why I was doing it. They had to look through my call records to see proof that I was being called that many times,” said Reynolds.

McGovern says that's a solution for some, but to prevent the calls from starting at all, don't answer numbers you don't know.

"It's always good to let it go to voicemail, and if it's a legitimate call they'll leave you a message,” said McGovern.

The FCC is now looking at giving wireless carriers the ability to block robocalls from spoofed numbers. For more information on how to protect yourself or to file a complaint click here.

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