The Scourge of Phone Spoofing
IntroductionA trend which keeps increasing and sees people receive unwanted calls and messages is caller-id spoofing. Number spoofing is when someone fakes outgoing caller ID info to show a number that isn’t theirs. The spoofed number often belongs to a real person or business, but not to the person using it to call you.
A common strategy is neighbour spoofing, which is when the caller displays a number with your area code so that you’re more likely to pick up. Scammers will even spoof the numbers of legitimate government agencies, banks, and insurance providers to fool people into paying fraudulent fees or revealing sensitive information. The spoofers goal is to make a profit by dishonest means.
There are difficulties in presenting caller-id spoofing because it is not illegal as there legitimate use cases of it. There are situations when number spoofing is arguably necessary, or at least understandable. For example, a doctor might display their office number when they need to make professional calls from their home or cell. A company might display its toll-free customer service line rather than one of its hundreds or thousands of numbers. A person travelling for work might display their home office number when making calls from abroad. In all of these scenarios, call spoofing is legal.
The laws and regulations may between countries so that is only a general overview but often call spoofing is illegal only when the caller intends to “defraud, harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value” from the call recipient.
- Record a new voicemail message. You can say something like, “If you got a call from this number, please understand that telemarketers or scammers are using my number without my permission. For your own security, do not engage with them and please block this number.” As more people block your number, it will lose its value to spoofers, making them less likely to continue using it.
- If you’re getting overwhelmed with calls and texts, you can temporarily (or permanently) use a 3rd party application to block all numbers that aren’t in your phonebook. Also, block unwanted numbers, in general, should help avoid repeat calls. Though it is best to add numbers to your contacts or phonebook of your bank, insurance, GP etc to avoid missing potentially vital calls.
- File a complaint with the relevant authorities or agencies in your own country that oversee Telecommunications. Generally, they are cracking down on people making illegal robocalls and spoof calls, so any information you provide might help.
- Identity thieves and other fraudsters often pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors, or government bodies (including the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly) to get people to reveal their account numbers and other sensitive information.
- Never give out your personal information in response to an incoming call, or rely upon the Caller ID as the sole means of identification, particularly if the caller asks you to carry out an action which might have financial consequences.
- If someone rings you asking for this information, don't provide it. Instead, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government department's website to check whether the call was genuine. Wait at least five minutes before making the call - this ensures the line has cleared and you're not still speaking to the fraudster or an accomplice.
Scammers tend to cycle through numbers like fast food joints churn out fries, so they’ll stop using your number after a while. By following the steps above, you should be able to speed up the process. Since number spoofers often call the same people multiple times, they’ll realise your number’s no longer useful to them as more and more people block it — and then they’ll stop spoofing it.
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