Why is my own phone number calling me?

It can be a bit disorienting when your phone rings and your own home phone number comes up on the caller ID. But will you answer the phone?

Scammers are betting you will, or at least you'll be more likely to than if the call came from "Unknown Name, Unknown Number," "Private Caller," or from some unrecognizable area code. The Better Business Bureau and others have recently issued warnings about this increasingly common tactic.

If you answer the call, what you're likely to hear can vary. It could be a robo-call trying to sell you on the idea that you could lower your credit card interest rates (maybe even from the famous Rachel from Cardholder Services), or a call from someone posing as being from Microsoft intent on selling you a solution to some computer woe or perhaps a software update. Beyond those, which are often associated with the called ID trick, be on guard for most any of the most common phone scams.

Technology readily available today allows scammers to make their calls appear to be coming from whatever source they'd like it to say, including trusted businesses or the government. The idea of using your own home phone number is that for those unfamiliar with the ruse it's less likely that you'd immediately resist answering.

These scams are seeking your credit card information. To lower your interest rate, of course they'll need that. And if you want that software update or technical help from Microsoft, they'll need that, too. Let's be clear: You're not going to lower your interest rate after getting that call and Microsoft is not going to solicit you over the phone.

If you do get a call from your own phone or a robo-call, here's some advice to consider:

  • Just hang up. Don't engage the caller and don't press one of the buttons on your phone, even if it says that it will get you removed from their lists. You're just end up getting more calls.
  • Remember that caller ID can lie. Don't completely rely on what appears on the screen.
  • Guard your personal information. Whether it's a credit card, Social Security, or bank account number they're after, it's on you to hold those tight. Do not give out that information to anyone calling you unsolicited, and do not give them out at all unless you're sure of who you're talking to and that they need that information. If you think someone calling could be legitimate, call that business or agency at a known, published phone number from such sources as a bank statement or the back of your credit card.
  • Mitch Lipka On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.

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