Kevin Hunt: 'Who Stole My Phone Number?'; Cromwell Dental Practice Part Of $21 Million Fraud Case

Take my phone number, says Richard Young of Columbia. Please.

Now that he's a spoofing victim, he wants everyone to know that even though his phone number might show up on your caller ID, it's not him. Scam artists have co-opted his number to call local residents in an attempt to to collect sensitive personal information.

"I didn't even know what spoofing was until recently," he says.

Young wants to hand out his number. It won't happen here, though. Young should want fewer people to know his number, not more. Always protect your personal information.

In spoofing's early days, scam artists would merely use a phony number. Now they're using actual numbers of local businesses and residents to better fool their targets.

"This is a new but not surprising evolution of spoofing," says Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. "We have to regard our telephones as a door through which criminals try to push themselves."

Young says he found out that at least 90 spoofing calls were made in his name. Then some of the targeted victims called him.

"Twenty people called me," says Young, "and wanted to know what the hell I was doing. I explained to them, 'I've been spoofed.'"

Young now says, after two weeks of spoofing, he's about to change the phone number he's had for 50 years.

Elaine Massa of Hebron went through the same thing late last year after scammers pirated her number.

She says she received at least 30 calls in three days from local residents wanting to know why she called and what she wanted.

"Some were irate," she says, "asking us to stop calling them."

Massa says she called the telephone company, the FCC, the state Department of Consumer Protection and the local police.

"They all told me there is nothing they can do," she says. "I had no one to file a complaint against since I did not know who was making the calls."

Spoofing has been illegal since the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, signed into law in late 2010. Federal Communications Commission rules permit penalties of $10,000 for each violation. The scammers, however, rarely use one number long enough to get caught.

"We're no longer having the problem,'' says Mass. "It seems that the people who use the phone number will only use if for a week or so and then move on to the next number."

The state attorney general's office has received 114 complaints involving spoofing or vishing (voice phishing) in the past two years.

"Unfortunately," says Susan Kinsman, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office. "Our office sees more and more instances of 'spoofing' over time and the scam artists are sophisticated in their attempts to avoid detection. The consumer's best protection is to guard their information. Most legitimate companies don't ask for information over the phone that they already have."

A few safeguards from the BBB, FCC and the state attorney general's office:

>> If you don't recognize the number or the voice on a message, don't return the call.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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