"Don't ever trust caller ID, because you can't anymore."
It's a piece of advice the president of Raleigh's Better Business Bureau gives out, and a piece of advice Toby Barfield learned to take to heart.
Caller ID changed how consumers used their phones, but scam artists have found out how to change or "spoof" caller ID by appearing as nearly anyone when they call.
"I was in a state of confusion," Barfield said. "That's the typical response of consumers when it happens to them, and I was a classic consumer."
Someone spoofed Barfield's direct phone line at the Better Business Bureau and used it to impersonate him to harass people.
"I got a call from someone who was very irate who wanted to know why I'd been harassing him apparently, and I knew for a fact I hadn't made a call that day," Barfield said.
At one time, consumers could count caller ID being correct because only telephone companies had the equipment and ability to assign them. But for as little as $10, anyone can employ services that not only change their appearance on caller ID but can alter voices and add background sound effects.
Consumer Sephie Taylor said she has been victimized by spoofing by unscrupulous callers.
"It's usually a computer or someone trying to sell something," Taylor said.
She learned it's a scam when the caller ID shows it is something different from what actually is being pitched.
Officials said many of those spoofed calls come from overseas.
While preparing the broadcast version of this report, Steve Sbraccia received a call on his WNCN-issued cellphone purporting to be from a credit bureau. The call said there was an issue with his credit card.
The caller ID had a Dallas area code and the caller asked Sbraccia to provide information. He hung up and immediately redialed the number.
He got a recording, which said the international call he dialed was not in service.
Although calls like that may come from far away, officials can do something about them if they are reported in time.
"We have been able to take action against a number of these companies even though they've spoofed their number we've been able to go after them,' said Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Cooper said a few simple things can be done to protect yourself:
"You have to know the signs of what to look for that someone is fishing for information they don't really need," Barfield said.
Before he was victimized by spoofing, Barfield said he used to preach to folks not to answer a call unless they recognized the caller ID.
Now he listens to his own message.