Tag Archives: Ofcom

Transatlantic Team To Wage War on Serial Spoofers


21st October 2013 brought good news for all phone-owners as the USA’s Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission joined forces with organisations in the UK and Canada to crack down on ‘spoof’ callers. This new task force aims to share international resources and knowledge to tackle nuisance callers’ stranglehold over phonelines the world over.

The Truth in Caller ID Act, passed by President Obama in December 2010, prohibits the masking of Caller ID with the intent to “defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value”. Working with Ofcom, the UK’s independent regulation and competition authority for communications industries, the UK-based Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Canadian Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the FTC and FCC have pledged to use their collective international jurisdiction act decisively and severely against the criminal act of spoofing.

Spoof calling, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, involves using some ingenious software to mask the number you’re actually calling from, preventing the recipients of your calls from locating you, or calling you back. This is naturally infurating for people plagued by anonymous calls. What’s even more infuriating is that whilst some spoofers use nonsense numbers instead of their own, others have gone the extra mile and strategically use the phone numbers of well-known organisations to execute some impressive scam manoeuvres. Let’s take a look at a couple.

Tellows users in the US reported this month that one band of tricksters have been using a phone number belonging to New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC) to try and pose as telemarketers. User Gerald says about his call from 5186211390:

I got this call from “NYSTEC” but I figured out rather quickly that it was scam. Someone is “spoofing” their number cause NYSTEC doesn’t make any telemarketing calls or ask for donations. Nor would it ask personal information or even credit card information in that way.

NYSTEC soon cottoned onto the fact that their number was being used by a spoof caller and released a statement on their website.

More dramatically, last week’s ‘sheriff’ blog aptly illustrates how successful a daring fraudster can be. Numerous cases of sheriff-impersonation have been springing up all over the United States, convincing vulnerable citizens to, for example, bail out a relative or pay their way out of an arrest warrant.

A non-existent ‘Donald Mack’ from Kern County Sheriff’s department (9164148678) tried to tell user Jen that there was a warrant out for her arrest. The genuine sheriff’s department, when Jen called them back, confirmed that it’s not possible to be ‘served’ over the phone. Kudos to Jen for the cool-headed approach!

Fraudsters will even impersonate a string of different people, calling you back on different, faked numbers, working their way up a disciplinary hierarchy to try and scare you into paying up.

The numbers used by spoofers range from any old number, to the very frustrating 000-000-0000 number variants, to the phone numbers of prestigious organisations. Difficulty in tracking down the culprits is increased thousandfold by the fact that the origin of the call is completely untraceable. Without an area code, there is generally no way of discerning where or who a call has come from; this means that internationally-placed spoof calls are becoming increasingly common – hence the transatlantic team-up.

The joint statement, published on the ICO’s website, avers that the six regulators

will work together to share information and target organizations responsible for spoofing.

The member organisations will pool resources, share information and work together with telecommunications industries in their respective countries to target and reprimand offending organisations. Guidelines on what constitutes ‘misuse’ of the spoofing technique are also being reconsidered and clarified, with a view to introducing tougher punitive measures. And it’s not just the scam callers that are being targeted; silent and abandoned calls will be treated with equal severity.

For now though, until that distant day when spoofers and scammers have been silenced once and for all, remember to second-guess that unknown caller! Stay suspicious and have a great week.

Your tellows team


A Scam Method Walkthrough Mk I – You Better Know What You Are Dealing With: Nuisance Calls


Nuisance Calls – The UK’s Approach

In general, all forms of nuisance calls are unsolicited. Whereas telesales calls employ a vehement form of aggressive advertisment, silent calls are meant to identify valid phone numbers from a pool of randomly generated numbers. Furthermore, automated diallers are often used when the call centre is short on agents. To identitfy silent calls, call centres are required to display a Calling Line Identification number on your phone in order to allow you to aquire the caller’s phone number by dialling 1471. Once the number is obtianed, it is advised to forward this number to Ofcom (use Silent Calls Complaint Form). With sufficient complaints Ofcom will find it easier to counteract the dubious schemes of callcenters and other suspicoius companies. Additionally, it is recommended to contact your provider which might help to identify the caller as well. Moreover, your provider may offer a ‘anonymous call rejection’ (check if this service is charged) to prevent a vast bulk of unsolicited calls in the future.

As far as telesales calls are concerned, a registration with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) bears the advantage of having the legal upper hand against call centres since the TPS makes unsolicited calls to you unlawful within the 28 days after you registration. Not only will the TPS will contact the company involved but also it will relay your complaint to the ICO which, in return, can enforce adequate regulations. If you experience unsolicited faxes you can register with the Facsimile Preference Service. Unfortunately, neither Ofcom nor the TPS have authority outside the UK’s borders. Hence, telesales calls from abroad cannot be stopped.

Furthermore, if you think the call centre obtained your personal information illegally the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) gladly provides detailed guidelines on the protection of your privacy in electronic communications. Additionally, complaints about nuisance calls, spam fax and mail may be filed directly with ICO. In all these cases you should share as much information with Ofcom, your provider an tellows on the caller as you can. Yet