The call is coming from inside your house: Caller ID spoofing becoming more frequent for frustrated Canadians

– Heather Riddel was in her bedroom in Riverbend, reading a book, when the phone rang.

The caller ID read “,” her husband.

Heather reached for the phone, thinking Howard was prank-calling her from the living room, where he was watching television.

But the call two weeks ago, about 7:30 p.m., wasn’t coming from Howard’s cellphone. It was coming from their home number.

That’s when Heather realized she had been spoofed.

Caller ID spoofing, the practice of disguising calls so they appear they are coming from other phone numbers, isn’t new. The United States has legislation against it — called the — but spoofing is legal in . The introduction of apps such as SpoofCard and Phone Gangster have made it easier.

Spoofing is not really the problem. It’s the fraud behind it

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says spoofing has become an increasingly popular tool among scammers, who disguise their calls as coming from local or familiar numbers to trick people into picking up the phone.

“We see a lot more right now than we saw two years ago,” said RCMP Cpl. Josée Rousseau, who works at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in North Bay, Ont.

Rousseau said the centre received a surge of reports on spoofing this spring. They received so many reports that they decided to add an automated message about spoofing to their fraud-reporting hotline.

Recent reports indicate scammers are using the spoofing technique to convince Canadians that phone calls are coming from legitimate Canada Revenue Agency numbers or from companies such as Marriott or WestJet.

Once people pick up the phone, scammers start their spiel and hope the caller might be gullible enough to send money or personal information.

Riddel, who has long been plagued by such attempts, knew better than to pick up the phone that night. She had received calls from local Edmonton numbers from scammers claiming to be from WestJet. One supposedly local caller claimed to represent Air Canada, thanked her for her recent business, and offered her a prize. Neither Heather nor Howard had flown Air Canada for at least 15 years.

“It’s really a form of identity theft,” said Stefanie Kletke, also of Edmonton, who received a call from her own number last fall, then again about a month ago.

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“The first time, it totally freaked me out and stopped me in my tracks,” she said.

Then in July, Kletke and her husband received a half-dozen calls during a 40-minute period, all from strangers who claimed they had received scam calls from their number.

Some callers were polite, but others were incensed and yelled at Kletke’s husband to stop calling and stop asking personal questions. The couple turned their phones and answering machine off for several days.

They called Telus, but were told there was nothing their phone company could do to prevent the problem.

“There is no way to prevent it,” Rousseau said.

Even if the couple changed phone numbers, she said, “the new number could be used at some point.”

Not all spoofed calls are scams. Business owners may want their cellphone calls to appear as if they were coming from office numbers, for example.

“Spoofing is not really the problem. It’s the fraud behind it,” Rousseau said.

Edmonton Journal

About Madeleine Cummings, Postmedia News