Spoof Calling

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief

Crank callers have new way to hide identify
‘Spoofing’ services let dialers input another number that displays on a victim’s phone

by Stephannia F. Cleaton, Advance Business Editor
SILive.com
August 17, 2008

cooldude-200.jpgStaten Island, N.Y. — The crank caller was relentless, phoning at 10, 11 and 12 o’clock at night.

The content of the calls was inane: “One time, she asked me if I liked chicken,” said Susan, who requested the Advance not publish her surname.

And Caller ID was no help in resolving the situation.

The Sunnyside resident called the police and did some investigative work of her own. She learned she was a victim of Caller ID “spoofing,” a method that allows anyone to display any phone number he or she wishes — except 911 — on the called party’s phone.

It’s a service that formerly was used by law enforcement, private investigators, collection agencies and telemarketers, but is now made widely available on the Web.

Here’s how it works: The chameleon calls the spoofing service, enters the desired connection number, then enters the number to be displayed — and the call is connected.

If a name is publicly listed with the number that is entered, that name will appear as well on the receiver’s Caller ID.

There are companies all over the Internet that market this service to the public for a fee. Depending on the service, the user can change his or her voice, record the conversation or send a text message. Anonymity is assured.

“This is 100 percent legal,” Meir Cohen, president of Spoofcard.com, told the Advance. His company has been in business for four years. “From time to time, there are people who misuse our services for pranks or other misuse. We do all we can to help the victim.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people use it for legitimate reasons. It was created to be a privacy tool. Celebrities use it, and people who work from home who don’t want their numbers to appear.”

Reported in Media

Caller ID spoofing has been well reported in the news. One celebrity who misused the service was Paris Hilton. According to an article that appeared in August 2006 on TMZ.com, Ms. Hilton was terminated from her SpoofCard account for allegedly breaking into unauthorized voice mailboxes.

Another well-publicized prank ended in the arrest of an Ohio man who, along with others, used Caller ID spoofing to phone the police with fake hostage crises, sending armed cops bursting into the homes of innocent people.

In May, U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle sentenced the man, Stuart Rosoff, to five years in federal prison and levied more than $75,000 in fines.

Some Illegal Usage

While the prank is the most common application of spoofing, it’s not the only one.

Lance James at security company Secure Science Corp. said in an interview with The Associated Press that Caller ID spoofing Web sites are used by people who buy stolen credit card numbers. They can call a service such as Western Union, setting Caller ID to appear to originate from the card holder’s home, and use the credit card number to order cash transfers that they then pick up.

In June 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the “Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007,” which makes it a crime for someone to fake their phone’s outgoing Caller ID information for illegal purposes. The Act will not outlaw Caller ID spoofing or prohibit companies from using commercial Caller ID spoofing services, but prohibit fraud and harassment via Caller ID spoofing.

The bill awaits a vote in the Senate.

Growing Industry

In the meantime, Caller ID spoofing services are growing. Launched in January 2007, new-comer Spoofem.com announced in April of this year that it earned more than $1 million in just 14 months.

“This year we are going to be more aggressive by advertising in magazines, new television commercials and radio ads,” stated Gregory Evans, creator of Spoofem.com.

The company stated that 80 percent of its customers are women using Spoofem.com as a tool to catch their boyfriend or husband cheating.

An example of this is shown in a staged YouTube video that appears on the company’s Web site: A woman states that by using a spoofem account, she was able to catch a cheating lover by using his mother’s phone number. The cheating lover, who ordinarily wouldn’t pick up the phone when he’s with another woman, answered the phone when his mother’s number appeared on the Caller ID.

“Close to 1,000 of these suspicious women loved our service so much that they decided to become Spoofem.com dealers and sold Spoofem.com cards to friends, family, co-workers and women support groups,” stated Evans, who offers a free book, “How to Uncover a Cheating Lover,” when you sign up for an account.

image: spoofem