If you, like basically everyone else, hate getting annoying robocalls, you've probably sworn off answering incoming calls from numbers that you don't recognize. But have you noticed that lately, a lot of those numbers popping up on your screen have the same area code as you? No, you're not imagining things — but yes, you're right to not pick up. Here's why.
As technology advances, so too, unfortunately, do scammers. New programs allow companies to engage in a process called "neighbor spoofing." Basically, there is software that allows telemarketers to mimic your area code on their phone calls so that you pick up the phone thinking it's someone you actually know. Unfortunately, as you might have learned, when you answer the phone, it's not your neighbor but actually a person posing as a debt collector or a machine telling you you won the sweepstakes.
The Federal Trade Commission, which is the government organization that is tasked with dealing with this issue, is aware of the problem and has taken steps to make it easier for people to report robocallers. Ajit Pai, the head of the Federal Communications Commission, another government agency that's working on fixing this situation, said in an interview with the NPR's "Planet Money" podcast that he even received neighbor-spoofed spam calls on his work phone.
Your best option, in this case, is to not answer the phone. If you do pick up, you're telling the computer on the other end that the number it's dialing is, in fact, a real telephone number. The risk then is that your phone number ends up in another database for robocalls and you receive even more in the future.
Now is also a good time to remind everyone that it's never a safe idea to give away your phone number if it's not required when you're signing up for a service. Who knows who else will have access to that company's list of customers' information — including your phone number.
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