Slamming, Spamming, Phishing, and Now Spoofing
For those of you who live and die by caller ID--answering only the numbers or names you recognize--be forewarned: That number or name on the machine may be fake.
State and federal government officials are starting to investigate a practice called "spoofing" that allows callers to conceal their identity over the phone.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist has launched a probe into spoofing, sending out three investigative subpoenas to get information about some of the Web sites that sell spoofing services.
Here's what some of the Web sites say:
"Log in at Tricktel and make 100 percent anonymous prank calls."
"SpoofCard calling cards offers you the ability to change what someone sees on their caller ID display when they receive a phone call.....Key Benefits: Make calls truly private, Ability to record calls, Change your voice, Fun and inexpensive, Easy to use and fast to set up."
At SpoofTech: "You too can experience the awesome power, sheer stealth, and pure enjoyment of Caller ID Spoofing or Call Display Spoofing."
"SpoofTel offers you the ability to change what someone sees on their call display when they receive a phone call. When they look to see who's calling you can show any phone number you wish on their call display. When you Spoof someone, you are protecting your privacy by not showing your real number on their Caller ID."
According to Crist, some of these Web sites sell a virtual "calling card" for $10 that provides 60 minutes of talk time. The user dials a toll-free number, then keys in the destination number and the number the caller wishes to display on the caller ID. Some Web sites also provide optional voice scrambling that can alter a person's voice, such as from male to female or adult to child.
"We don't know how big a problem this is," Crist said in a telephone interview. "All we know is that news accounts are telling us this is happening. We don't want people falsely presenting themselves and thereby deceitfully selling a product."
Crist added that there's another reason why he's particularly worried about spoofing: "In Florida, we're always concerned about our voting being accurate." And that means the campaigning has to be accurate as well, he said. With spoofing, there are a lot of opportunities for candidates or their supporters to pretend to be calling on behalf of someone else to make false claims against their rivals or about themselves. Telephone misinformation has happened in previous political campaigns, said Crist, who's running for governor in the state.
And it's not just Florida where there's a problem. Last fall, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) received a lot of complaints from constituents who had received recorded messages bad-mouthing the congressman. Constituents said the caller-ID said the calls came from his office, but they didn't.
Have you been spoofed? Let me know the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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