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Scary Caller ID Fraud

May 29, 2018

Annoyed. Likely the least offensive description I can use to describe what is felt when you receive a call that has the same area code and exchange as your phone.  This of course is to get you to answer, only to hear a short delay then a sales pitch coming on. Within seconds you hang up, and in time learn to ignore any call that is not matched to a contact on your phone.   You might have even installed apps that magically block these calls.


You didn't think solicitation calls are legal.  And you are on the "do not call list". So why are we getting so many calls?


The technology behind these calls is the ability to spoof Caller ID. It's rather simple, annoying, and mostly ineffective. However processing millions of calls a day, even an ineffective system produces enough hits to continue this practice. While the goal is to get a sale, another goal is to just prove that a person exists at that number. This along with other data then can be sold to other companies wanting to sell you goods and services.


Unsophisticated. Annoying. Mostly avoidable. Similar to the Nigeria email spam of yesteryear. Or first computer viruses that simply display a message on your computer. Shocking when first discovered, but tame compared to todays Ransomware.


Applying the same devious unethical curve to Caller ID fraud could result in a very troubling outcome. Here is a potential scenario and some ideas to prevent falling into it.


The story(ies)


You get a call from your daughter. Except it's not your daughters voice you hear. It's someone else saying that they have taken your daughter and are demanding some sort of ransom.


Or a call from your son who was in an accident. A good Samaritan picked up the phone and called to offer help, but needs money to secure transport to the hospital.


Or a call from a parent who forgot their wallet at home. Their friend is calling on behalf of the parent... a little too much "fun", don't have money, need to get a taxi home.  Need money, please send to a PayPal payment?


Or maybe not a call, but a SMS text message - need cash, forgot wallet, send to ....


Spin these stories anyway you want, the common thread is that the "perp" knows a bit of information - the phone number of someone you know. With that phone number programmed into their system, they can bypass the firewall(s) you have on your system (magical app that blocks spam calls, your knowledge of spam type calls, simply ignoring unknown calls) and get a known contact to pop up on your phone.


It'll take a bit of work to connect these dots, but with access to social media, huge amounts of data mining, sophisticated software, and time, the above are unfortunate possible scenarios.




Knowledge. Assuming that this may follow a typical technology curve and evolve into a sophisticated Caller ID hacking scheme, here are some suggestions on how not to fall victim.


The simplest is to just hang up and call back. You can fake a bad connection - I'm in the elevator, I'm driving into a tunnel, etc.


Or grab another phone and place a call to the "hacked" number.


If you are unsure and don't want to hang up for some reason, have a code question/answer that is public.  A picture of your cat on FB (you don't have a cat) but if you asked what kind of cat and the answer is what is on your FB page, then it may be clue that the data was scrapped.


Another clue could be a "find my phone" feature to determine the physical location of the phone.


While this is a troubling future for Caller ID hacking, knowledge will hopefully make it ineffective. Although we should be monitoring our family and friends who have less experience with technology. I could only imagine what my mom would have done if she received a call.


Do also report any incidents to the authorities.













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