Scammers using “spoofing” trick to change the number that appears on your caller ID

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More scammers are using a trick called "spoofing" to change the number that appears on your caller ID.

In early March 2016, Geneseo Police took a report from a resident who received two calls, allegedly from the IRS, demanding money. A third call showed up as the Geneseo Police Department on caller ID. Police say these calls were not legitimate -- they were spoofed.

"It allows an individual to transmit a different caller ID, other than the true number they're calling from," said Joe Alongi, president of Hughes Telephone Inc.

The process is relatively simple -- using a number of free apps, anyone can change the presenting number that appears on caller ID. Businesses with widespread offices may use the technology so that all their calls appear to come from one location, and pranksters often use it for practical jokes.

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In addition, Alongi says a growing number of telemarketers and scammers are using this service.

"A lot of consumers are aware of an unknown or a blocked call, and they purposely won't answer that call. But they feel more comfortable answering a call if they see it coming from their home area. So, we are seeing a very big increase in it," said Alongi.

Unfortunately, Alongi says there is no real way to spot a spoofed call.

"The best thing that you can probably do is if you realize that this may be a potential telemarketing scam, maybe tell them, 'I'm busy right now, and I would like to call you right back. Can I get your phone number and call you back?' They'll typically give you a different phone number than what you see on your caller ID, and that's what you would report to the FCC as far as leveraging a complaint," said Alongi.

Both MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy say scammers have used spoofing to pose as utility employees, too, threatening to shut off power unless a payment is made.

Anyone who receives a suspicious call should hang up and call local law enforcement.