Caller ID Spoofing on the Rise

28 August 2015

For a cautious telephone user, caller ID is a useful tool. Instead of having to answer the phone and interrogate the person on the other end to determine who he or she is, one can simply look at the reader and get information about the caller. However, an increasingly prevalent scam is threatening the utility.

The idea behind Caller ID spoofing is straightforward: a person, whose call you wouldn't normally answer because of the unfamiliar number, deliberately disguises his or her phone number, sometimes with a phone number that you recognize. This can be more or less innocuous: a fledgling business might, for example, disguise a cell phone number as a landline number to show more gravitas.

Other times, it is done with more malicious and deceptive intent. Some spoofers pretend to be somebody close to the person they’re calling, in an attempt to annoy them or get personal information. People who would never have picked up the phone for a complete stranger are much more willing to connect when it’s a number they recognize.

This scam is becoming more and more prevalent. This year already, there are more than three times as many reported cases as there were in all of 2013. CMP Cpl. Josée Rousseau, with the anti-fraud centre of the RCMP, gave details about the increase of incidences to Yahoo News.

“Just to give you an example of the complaints recorded here, in 2013 we had 134 calls for the whole year and in 2015, as of June, we had over 472,” explained Rousseau. “Of course not everyone [who gets these calls] reports them to us, I received some myself and didn’t bother reporting it.”

Some companies have even had to issue notices, because fraudsters were impersonating their numbers so frequently. In 2014, BC Hydro had to send out a notice to its customers, many of whom had received calls requesting personal information like bank and credit card numbers. While they were coming from seemingly legitimate BC Hydro phone numbers, the company had nothing to do with the requests.

While the United States has legislation against the practice, known as The Truth in Caller ID Act, there is no equivalent law in Canada, where spoofing is legal. There are even apps, such as SpoofCard, which make it even easier for would-be pranksters.

This ruse, however, can be used for more than just a simple prank. Impersonating another person is a form of identity theft, and a crafty criminal could use the guise created by this caller ID to scam personal information from an unsuspecting person. If you’re worried that you’ve been the target of this or a similar form of fraud, it’s important to have as much information as possible. A credit monitoring service can help you monitor for certain activity that may be reflected in your credit file.