Scammers “spoofing” Caller IDDICKINSON, N.D. - The next time you let the caller identification function on your telephone determine whether or not you will pick up, it’s best to give it a second thought.
By: Ashley Martin The Dickinson Press, Worthington Daily Globe
DICKINSON, N.D. - The next time you let the caller identification function on your telephone determine whether or not you will pick up, it’s best to give it a second thought.
Scammers and telemarketers are taking advantage of consumers’ reliance on caller ID by using technology that makes a false or “borrowed” number appear in your caller ID display.
This practice has been being referred to as caller ID “spoofing.”
Parrell Grossman, director of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division, said spoofing can include displaying a number that doesn’t actually belong to a specific entity, but it can also involve the use of a legitimate phone number that is already in use.
“You could spoof the telephone number from my home residence and make it appear to your friends or other individuals answering your phone calls that that call is originating from my home phone number,” Grossman said.
He added that companies exist to generate new numbers that are not already attached to a residence, business, or any other entity.
“They just create telephone numbers for a company that can use those numbers for any purposes they deem necessary or beneficial to their business,” Grossman said.
However, the numbers generated in this way are not always used for fraudulent purposes, Grossman said.
Rhonda Dukart, public relations manager at Dickinson’s Consolidated, said the company receives about four complaints a month regarding caller ID spoofing.
“Most people have caller ID now and they rely on it and when they’re picking up the phone expecting it to be whosever information is on the phone and it’s not that person, it’s alarming,” said Dukart. “That ID is not necessarily accurate all the time. I would say most of the time it still is, but randomly, it may not be.”
She added that this type of “spoofing” has been reported in the Dickinson area for quite some time.
“It’s not really brand new … it’s been going on in this area for probably 9-12 months,” Dukart said.
She added the complaints Consolidated has been receiving from its customers about the spoofing have been gradually increasing, but the problem is not unique to North Dakota.
“It’s very much a national problem, it’s certainly not something that’s just happening in our area,” Dukart said.
Caller ID spoofing is not just a land-line problem, either. Dukart said it can happen on a cell phone just as easily as on your home phone. However, she says personal cell phone information may be more protected than land-line information.
“You’re land line will usually give you the name and number,” Dukart said. “Your name is more protected (with a cell phone), possibly, because I can’t call directory assistance and get your cell phone number, but I can call directory assistance and get your land-line number, unless you have asked … not to give it to me.”
Grossman said that in many cases, caller ID spoofing is an illegal practice.
“It’s against the law if it’s used to misrepresent or defraud consumers. Or if it’s used in a deceptive manner, than, it would be in violation of the law,” Grossman said.
He added he is unaware of a specific law that makes caller ID spoofing illegal, but says it does violate the regulations that pertain to the national do-not-call list, which protects consumers from sales pitches on request.
“… if it involves the telephone solicitation, there is a statute that requires that you provide a caller ID number and so, yes, it is possible that it would be in violation of the do-not-call law if, in fact, they’re providing false information regarding the actual number,” Grossman said. “I think by disguising the telephone number of the originating call, there would be an argument that, in fact, it’s a violation of the do-not-call law.”
Grossman added that using the same spoofing practices on individuals who are not on the do-not-call list may also be illegal.
“You don’t have to be on the do-not-call list to be a victim of spoofing,” Grossman said.
Although he is unsure about the current status of federal laws that pertain to the subject, Grossman does not believe there is a North Dakota law that would prohibit charities or other entities who are not engaging in soliciting to spoof numbers.
Grossman said spoofed numbers may not always be used for deceptive practices.
“I don’t want to say that every false or spoofed number is for fraudulent purposes, but we have found that the practice is often used by questionable entities for questionable and possibly illegal activities,” Grossman said.
So what should a person do if the voice on the other end of the line does not appear to be the same as whose name is appearing on you’re caller ID display?
“If it’s a caller that they don’t recognize, they should just hang up, because it’s so easy to be taken advantage of,” Dukart said.
She added dialing “*69” could help determine the actual origin of the caller.
“It calls the number and it tells you the number it’s dialing,” Dukart said. “It’s either going to give you the accurate number that called you, or it’s going to give you the false number that they went out and got … which is not legitimate.”
She said some customers may be charged for using “*69” if the feature is not activated on their phone line.
If foul play is suspected, Grossman said the next step is to call the attorney general’s office.
“If you feel that you are receiving a questionable solicitation, and you’re certain that the call isn’t coming from that number, than you should report that to the attorney general’s office,” Grossman said. “Typically, we’ll want the name of the business they claim to be or the name that the caller used. We’ll want to know what they were selling …”
He added they will also need the number that was spoofed and if “*69” was used to obtain a number that does not match the one showing up on the caller ID display, that information may also be helpful.