TORONTO – Fraudsters and telemarketers have a new way of hiding who they are. It’s called spoofing and allows them to disguise their identity by displaying fake e-mail addresses, names or telephone numbers on a computer or phone.
Tonya Johnson has been receiving phone calls for over three months from people alleging she has called them. She dismissed the calls at first, thinking they were misdials – until she finally had proof.
“This morning, I received a call from a gentleman who basically accused me of calling him late last night. I didn’t call him,” said Johnson. “I checked my phone log, there was no misdial on my part so I kindly asked him to send me a screen shot and it was my number that called him so it didn’t come from me.”
Spoofing software is widely available on the Internet. Providers claim the practice is a way to have fun with friends. Some web services also allow users to change their voice — from one gender to another.
Surprising to some, spoofing isn’t against the law.
“It’s legal, but in our opinion it should be illegal,” said Chris Gerritsen, spokesperson for Telus in Calgary.
And Daniel Williams of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said spoofing is a “massive problem for law enforcement.”
The harm comes when consumers are led to believe the caller represents a legitimate business, their bank, or the Canada Revenue Agency. Authorities say scammers can effectively extract financial information because the person they`re calling believes they`re someone they are not.
“They are hoping the victim picks up thinking they are getting a real local call and then hope to sway them with the story of a prize or once in a lifetime deal,” Williams said.
The calls frequently originate in India, China, Russia or other countries that are not regulated by Canada’s Do Not Call legislation.
Johnson didn’t lose money or divulge information and is now aware of a phenomenon she knew nothing about until calling her phone provider.
“It makes room for people to use phone numbers for illegal purposes,” said Johnson. “I think it is pretty scary actually.”