Seminole, FL – It’s known as “call spoofing” and it could be happening to you and your phone number right now. A Seminole woman says telemarketers have hijacked her phone number and she’s dealing with the anger from others.
“It can be scary because that woman was really just almost rabid the last time. That’s why I call-blocked her,” said Judy Sallows.
“Call spoofing” lets a caller replace their numbers with yours. Anyone can make it look like your calling when you’re not even on the phone.
Sallows found out she was a victim of “call spoofing” when another woman called her and demanded that she stop phoning her.
“First couple times she was just agitated. The next couple of times she was really mad. I couldn’t make her understand that I was not calling her,” Sallows said.
Sallows also didn’t understand how it was happening until it happened to her. Like a scene from a scary movie, Sallows says she was in her home when the phone rang and the caller ID showed she was the one calling.
“That’s scary. That is scary,” Sallows said.
What was more alarming to Sallows was seeing just how easy it is for anyone to spoof a phone number. 10News WTSP anchor, Courtney Robinson, downloaded one of the free “fake caller ID” apps, entered Sallows’ number and within seconds it looked like Sallows was calling herself.
“I mean why would somebody want to do that?” Sallows asked.
10News got answers from Jonathan Nelson with the Seattle-based Hiya caller ID app. He explained “call spoofing” is a multibillion-dollar industry that is being abused by con artists and telemarketers to get you to answer their calls.
“We’re finding that the scammers themselves are getting more and more sophisticated every year, so they are spoofing more often to hide more efficiently from detection by law enforcement,” said Nelson.
Nelson researches “call spoofing” for Hiya. The company is trying to find a way to help its customers identify a spoofed call. Unfortunately, he says right now there’s not really a way to protect your phone number from spoofing.
“Spoofing is sort of the new form of prank calls. There's not a lot you can do to stop it from happening,” said Nelson.
10News reached out to the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the state’s Division of Consumer Services to find out what’s being done to fight back against “call spoofing.”
Under Florida’s Do Not Call Law, it’s illegal for telemarketers to spoof. “Call spoofing” has happened to both the Internal Revenue Service and the Florida Attorney General’s Office, and resulted in investigations into what they call “Imposter scams.”
Sallows’ concerns go beyond con artists and telemarketers.
“What if somebody comes after me because they’re mad because I keep calling them? What if that person is not a telemarketer and calls somebody and threatens them? What is my liability in this?”
The Division of Consumer Services with the Florida Department of Agriculture says you should report it if you suspect that your phone number has been spoofed or you receive suspicious calls. You can file complaints with them, the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and the Attorney General’s Office.
If the person on the other end of a spoofed call is making threats, you need to call local law enforcement.
Nelson says to get you to answer a call, “spoofers” often use your area code and even the first three digits of your number. Remember the IRS is not going to call you. As for other agencies or businesses, you can hang up, look up the real number and call them.