Fla. ó A local number on Evan Dimovís caller ID and
a confident voice on the other line had the Orlando
restaurant owner convinced he was in imminent danger of
having his power shut off.
the caller asked for a Western Union money order, Dimov
grew suspicious and called his utility, Orlando
Utilities Commission, to verify.
was a scammer, one of many inundating phones in Central
Florida and nationwide with increasingly convincing
pitches and tricks.
are on the rise, powered by an increase in
"spoofing" local numbers for caller IDs.
Spoofing makes it seem as if youíre getting a local
call, even if the calls are placed online from the other
side of the world.
number spoofing has been a legal practice for decades,
often used by large companies, schools or governments so
that all numbers coming from one building appear to be
from one number.
the early 2000s internet-based calling allowed web users
to start using spoofing to alter or hide caller IDs,
through companies like Star38.com and Spoofcard.com.
Telemarketers quickly adopted the practice. But sometime
earlier this year, scammers latched on to spoofing, said
Holly Salmons, president and CEO of the Better Business
Bureau serving Central Florida.
businesses and advocacy groups are frustrated by the
practice and say itís hard to stop annoying calls when
thereís little indication where the calls are coming
get the calls all the time," said Dimov. "Itís
gotten so bad that I donít answer calls from numbers I
Federal Trade Commission representative told a Senate
Committee in October that the number of robocall
complaints through the first nine months of 2017 has
already surpassed the total from all of 2016. They
pointed to phone number spoofing as a major concern
because the scammers and telemarketers circumvent laws
and anti-spamming measures, such as the National Do Not
hard to make a complaint when you donít know who to
complain about," Salmons said.
Florida has had its share of aggressive telemarketers
that have drawn the attention of federal and state
FTC and the Florida Attorney Generalís Office wrapped
up a case in June against an Orlando-based company,
Payless Solutions, that pitched "worthless credit
card interest rate reduction programs," according
to an FTC news release.
sued Payless Solutions for using robocallers to call
consumers and convince them to sign up for a
debt-reduction program, which charged $300 to $4,999 up
front. Regulators won $4.9 million in judgments against
12 people charged in the case and banned 10 of them from
using robocall technology again.
technology such as spoofing, a legal practice, leaves
federal regulators at a loss as to who to go after.
even had my own cellphone number call me before,"
said Salmons, who noted there has been an increase in
complaints to the BBB. "Often itís your own area
code and prefix, so you glance at the phone and think itís
local, so you pick it up."
internet-based calling, the scammers can now call
thousands of numbers in a short period of time and give
the impression that the calls are from people that live
the callers are phishing for information, Salmons said.
Common calls include pitches for health care coverage or
credit card debt reduction. Callers are looking for
credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or
of the time, itís a recorded message, reducing the
manpower required make the calls.
recommends ignoring the phone calls and sending them
straight to voicemail.
Utilities Commission spokesman Tim Trudell said OUC has
been targeted for years by scammers, who often threaten
to turn off electricity unless a payment is made.
are never going to call someone and tell them their
electricity is going to be turned off with so little
notice," Trudell said. "It takes longer than
that, and we are never going to require payment be made
by sending a pre-paid credit card."
said some customers are swindled out of cash this way
and that complaints are forwarded to law enforcement.
providers are working ways to thwart spoofing and
some phone companies started flagging suspicious calls
with the name "Scam Likely" name to warn
consumers, said Jonathan Sasse, a spokesman for First
Orion Corp., a technology company working with
providers, such as T-Mobile.
have a ton of data and you can analyze call patterns,
and, for instance, see when a certain number goes from
10 calls a day to 1,000," Sasse said.
Senator Bob Casey, R-Pa., sent a letter to the FCC in
April asking it to block calls from numbers known to
spoof other numbers.
Sasse said it could be complicated for carriers to find
a technological solution to the problem and taken even
longer for lawmakers to pass laws against it.
is an interesting challenge because itís an actual
loophole in the law," Sasse said.