by Dennis Dalman
So-called “spoof calls” are annoying and angering many people in the cities of Sartell and St. Joseph, as well as elsewhere, according to several complaints to the Newsleader.
Roberta Bollig, who lives north of St. Joseph, said she has received many calls on her home phone or cell phone and is careful not to answer any calls of which she is doubtful of the caller. Bollig then googles the numbers that appear on her called ID to find out who the callers are. In too many cases, she said, the calls are from the same company, using “spoofing” numbers. That is, a company pretending to be another company or even a person.
Bolling said in recent weeks, this spoofing has reached a new low. A voice from the company calling says the company (no name) would like to help “lower your credit-card rate.” In the past those companies would leave messages. Bollig recently received a call, and the caller ID on her cell phone showed her husband’s name so of course she answered the phone.
Instead of her husband’s voice, it was a greeting: “Hello, do you want to lower your credit-card rate?”
Bollig immediately hung up and checked the caller ID again. It showed her husband’s name and their home phone number as it appears in the phone directory.
Annoyed and angry by the intrusive, deceptive calls, Bollig began asking others if they, too, are getting such calls. One friend said she was getting the same kinds of calls, except hers would say “St. Cloud VA Hospital” on the caller ID. Another friend said she, too, received the same kind of nuisance calls, but in her case the caller ID said “Red Lobster.”
Cheryl Nies, a friend of Bollig’s, decided to stay on the line from a “Red Lobster” call. When a “real” person was on the line, Nies asked her why the caller ID read-out says “Red Lobster.” The woman refused to answer and instead kept asking her if she’d like to lower her credit-card rate. Nies kept demanding an answer, and finally the woman on the line had the gall to tell Nies she was “being a nuisance.” Then the woman on the other end of the line hung up on Nies.
Days later, Nies received another spoof call, this one with the number of a Sauk Rapids residence. It was from the same place that “wants to lower your credit-card rate.” Nies had answered that call because she thought it might be a Sauk Rapids customer of her family’s business – someone who called their home instead of the shop.
Bollig checked with the Federal Communications Commission’s website. Spoofing numbers is a fraudulent practice.
“I think the public should be made aware of this disgusting, deceitful practice,” Bolling wrote in an email to the Newsleader. “Surely others have been getting these calls. It’s infuriating to know these companies keep using these devious tactics and getting away with it.”
According to information on the Internet, spoof calls occur worldwide, often for malicious – even sinister intent in some cases. According to Wikipedia, in 2009, an irate wife spoofed the number of her husband’s lover in an attempt to trick the woman into taking medications that would cause her to miscarry.
Most often, however, spoof calls are used just to get people to answer the phone so telemarketers and others can launch into their sales pitches. In some cases, people use spoof calls for harmless pranks – usually harmless pranks – on their friends, such as an invitation to dinner at the White House.
Caller ID spoofing can be done by those with access to a specialized digital connection to a telephone company, called an ISDN PRI circuit. The deceptive practice has been used by collection agencies, law-enforcement officials and private investigators “with varying degrees of legality,” according to Wikipedia.
With the enormous complexity of electronic technology, the practice of spoofing will probably never be stamped out, legal or not. In the meantime, the only way to deal with it is if it happens and someone innocently answers a spoof call, just say “Stop spoofing and do not call my number again.” Then hang up.
People should also be aware spoof calls have been used so those who answer phones think the call is from their bank, a credit-card company or a government agency. Such calls are from crooks, trying to elicit personal information. The best guard against such calls is never totally trust a caller ID name or number, and never give financial or personal information over the telephone. That is true whether it’s a spoof call or not. In short, never give any information of that nature unless you yourself initiate the call, being 100-percent certain of who you are talking with.