For nearly three decades now, the use of Caller ID has been a widely used consumer telecom feature. When introduced to the public, it was done with the intended convenience of identifying your caller prior to answering the phone. For those of us who remember this technology in its infancy, it was a great way to be able to sift out those pesky telemarketing calls – especially the ones that would inevitably come just as you were ready to sit down for dinner. The use of this feature has continued its growth and now appears on our mobile devices, television screens, in our vehicles and more!
As with any technology that is adopted by the masses, there are, unfortunately, those unscrupulous individuals that try to exploit it for malicious reasons and gains. This is now the case with Caller ID and a deceptive activity known as “call spoofing”.
What is “call spoofing”?
“Spoofing” is the practice of deliberately falsifying the information that displays on a Caller ID. This is done in effort to lull the recipient into believing that the call is coming from a local or reputable source.
The practice has become so targeted, in fact, that some scammers are now crawling the internet to find local companies that rank high in search engines. When they discover a company or organization that has a high placement in the search engine, they spoof their name and number on Caller ID so as to appear to be calling from these established businesses. Once they have decided on a company and number to spoof, they utilize robocalling equipment and software to automatically dial all numbers in a specific area code and prefix until the call is answered. The fraudulent caller represents themselves as an employee of a bank, insurance agency or other financial institution and attempts to obtain information such as birth dates, social security numbers, passwords or other pieces of personally identifiable information. That information is then used in ways that can compromise an individual’s identity and credit standing.
Safeguards against the call spoof.
With this new threat becoming an ever increasing presence, it makes it necessary for consumers to be vigilant more than ever before. Some safeguards that you should take as a consumer to better secure yourself against this threat include:
- If the Caller ID appears to be from a company that you already do business with and you do not recognize the individual asking for personal information, hang up and then contact that business directly. A good way to do this would be by searching the web for their official website and then locating a contact number on the site or, use a document that was mailed to you by the business that lists a customer service phone number. Call the company direct and ask if they had recently made any such calls or if it is their practice to make these types of calls.
- If you receive a call from what appears to be a local number and an individual claiming to be from a business or one of the institutions mentioned above then asks you for personal information, immediately hang up the call. Search the phone number on the web to see if it is a potential scam phone number.
- You should make it your practice to never provide personal information to any caller that you do not personally know and trust. As a general rule, I recommend to my associates, family and friends to never provide information to a party where you have not personally initiated the call yourself.
- If you receive what you believe to be a spoof call, make note of the date and time of the call, the exact way that the Caller ID information was displayed and who the caller said they were calling from and, lastly, what information they were asking for. Use this information to notify the legitimate business owner of the call so that they can better try to put a stop to the calls. If the number was not tied to any actual business, you can make a complaint directly with the Federal Communications Commission on their website.
Business owners should be mindful.
If you are a business owner, it is wise to take a vested interest in any calls that you might receive from a consumer indicating that they had contact from a caller that displayed your company information. Work with that consumer to see if they can provide the date and time of the call and the information that was displayed on the Caller ID. You, in turn, can work with your telecom provider to determine if the call is coming from within their network or if they can trace the call to better narrow down the origin of the perpetrator.
This threat and others like it have made it necessary to become more guarded in our day-to-day activities. Being informed and diligent is, presently, the single best way to combat the offenders that employ this practice.