Phone spoofing cases escalating; what can you do if your phone is hijacked?
By KMOV Web Producer
ST. LOUIS (News 4 Investigates) -- I run across all kinds of scams, but this one is just plain annoying for the unsuspecting people who get entangled with crooks who steal your phone number and use it to harass others.
Phone spoofing isn't new, but these cases are escalating and lead me to ask what can be done to stop it.
“I got a call from a woman who said 'you called me' and I said 'no, I didn't'” Marylaine Donnell said.
That was the first weird call Donnell of O’Fallon Illinois received. Things just got worse, one call after another from people accusing her of calling them.
“There were a couple people who I thought were going to have a stroke before I could convince them that I did not call them” said Donnell.
She stopped answering her phone and got voicemails like this: “let me tell you something, nobody calls me a g** d*** liar, so I have your telephone number. I will find out who you are and I will take care of you, you no good foreigner."
Even employees at News 4 are victims. Photojournalist Laura Bluedorn says someone stole her number and used it to call someone else.
“This woman is leaving me a message saying someone from this number just called me and is a collection agency and is harassing me” Bluedorn said.
Michael Singer, the Director of Security Technology for AT&T, says the internet is full of websites offering spoofing technology, a service that allows a caller to display someone else’s number on the caller ID.
Singer says many of the spoofers originate from outside the United States which makes prosecution more difficult.
“The global aspect complicates it once you go outside the U.S. its different law enforcement, different jurisdictions” Singer said.
He says “The Truth in Caller ID Act” makes it illegal for someone to spoof, but unfortunately there's not a lot the average person can do about it.
You can block all incoming calls or change your number if things get bad enough.
Singer also recommends filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. For spoofing victims like Marylaine Donnell, things got so bad a sheriff's department in Indiana got involved and at first they thought Donnell was the bad guy.
She told News 4 the Indiana sheriff called her and said "that an elderly couple was filing a harassment suit against me … because they were scared. They were getting harassing calls from a roofing company.”
Donnell says her phone carrier suggested setting her phone to the fewest number of rings possible and then leaving a recording to explain the situation to angry callers. She says after a few weeks the calls finally stopped.
Another good piece of caution, give your phone number out to as few people as possible.