Crooks Trick Your Caller ID for Identity Theft

Crooks fake their phone numbers and conceal voice to steal your money.

ByABC News
April 13, 2009, 1:04 PM

April 13, 2009— -- Many of us rely on caller ID to screen our calls and protect our privacy, but maybe you shouldn't trust that little digital display. It turns out that when you pick up the phone, you can't always believe your eyes -- or ears.

Why? Because of a technological trick called "Caller ID Spoofing" that allows callers to change the name and number that come up on the display when they call someone.

It used to take sophisticated technology and expertise to "spoof" a number, but commercial spoofing services have brought the trick to the masses. Now, for as little as $10 an hour, customers can dial into a spoofing service that gives them the ability to change the number they appear to be calling from.

Spoofing services even offer you the ability to disguise your voice. A man can choose to sound like a woman, and vice versa.

Crooks using their own spoofing equipment recently contacted hundreds of Lancaster, Pa., residents -- including Gail Gray, the mayor's wife. They pretended to be with a local bank and asked for sensitive account details.

Gray told ABC News she came close to giving the con artists sensitive financial information. "It threw a scare into me initially," she said. "It's like they knew they had a bite on the line and they were ready to hook one."

As the economy has gone down, financial scams have gone up, and this is one of the ploys the crooks are pulling -- spoofing the phone numbers of financial institutions to gain people's trust and then simply asking people for their financial details.

"We have got to update the laws in order to keep up with the sophistication of the criminals," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Florida is the only state that has banned caller-ID spoofing. Florida legislators made spoofing a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. The law went into effect in October 2008, and the spoofing industry is suing to overturn it. Idaho and Alaska have also considered anti-spoofing laws, but have not finalized any bills so far.

Click here to find out how to protect yourself from spoofing scams.