Earlier this month, I posted about phone fraud and unwanted calls, including scammers’ practice of “spoofing” caller ID, i.e. faking their caller ID info using someone else’s number. This week, my wife’s cell number, which she’d had for almost our entire relationship, was chosen for fooling wireless customers here in Renfrew County.
I had been a Telus Mobility customer since my Cornwall days in 2003, and my wife made the change in early ’06, after a few years on a Bell prepaid service. I made the move to Rogers Wireless in summer 2009, after numerous widespread outages on the Bell network in Renfrew County that year – Telus piggybacks on Bell’s cell network around here, so our cell phones were dead, along with Internet, long distance calls, and even the local 9-1-1 service, until the severed fibre lines were repaired. Rogers uses completely physically separate mobile infrastructure, so local Rogers customers were unaffected by the Bell outages. Fast forward to fall 2012, only a month and a bit into our marriage, and we picked up a shared plan with Rogers, sharing mobile data and unlimited talk & text on a pair of Android phones. My wife had her Pembroke-based Telus number ported to Rogers, while I kept my existing Rogers number, also a Pembroke number.
Everything was good until Monday of this week, when an older sounding guy called my wife’s mobile and left a somewhat upset-sounding message – his phone number and my wife’s number were on the same area code and prefix. He called again the next day, sounding more upset than earlier. By Wednesday afternoon, this guy was furious – he wanted to hear from my wife right away. I immediately suspected that my wife’s cell number had been spoofed, so I told her that she’d need to change her number asap. In the meantime, she called and texted the guy, politely explaining who and where she is, and that the calls he was getting from my wife’s number were not placed by her, her phone, or our carrier (Rogers) – her caller ID info had been stolen by scammers. He texted her back immediately, saying “You are the scam, b—h.” That was the final straw.
Very fortunately, getting her number changed was quick and painless – took not even ten minutes for a Rogers rep in Toronto to make the change via live chat, and within an hour, my wife & I had provided her new number, with a totally different prefix, to everyone she texts. By yesterday, we had her business-type stuff changed over, including her banking, her healthcare people, and her employer.
After her number was changed, I told my wife the difference between a legit call from her phone and a call with her spoofed caller ID. A legit call from my wife would have her first and last name, all caps, in the name field, and her number as usual in the number field. A spoofed call would show her number only and not her name.
I seriously can’t wait for STIR/SHAKEN to be fully operational across Canada and on all major carriers – maybe it’ll minimize, if not completely eliminate, the risk of spoofing and other unorthodox/illegal telephony practices.