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Tags: robocalls | scammers | spoofing | caller id

Robocalls a Growing Problem in the US

Robocalls a Growing Problem in the US

By    |   Wednesday, 11 April 2018 05:01 PM

This morning, I received a phone call. A quick search online told me that this was the phone number of an Apple Store that operates out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I did not pick up the phone and, eventually, the caller hung up.

No more than one minute later, I received another call. The caller ID read, “Out of area.” This time, I let it go to the machine. The caller left an automated message that urged me to contact Apple due to a security issue that they did not specify.

I deleted the message and wrote it off as a mistake. After all, I had made the jump from Apple to Android a year ago, refusing to embrace this new trend toward invasive and Orwellian facial recognition software.

Less than five minutes later, the phone rang once again and, sure enough, it was the Out of Area people again. This time, I decided to pick up. The voice that greeted me was something straight out of a Spielberg movie, the dull mechanical voice of a robot.

The bot told me that a security breach had occurred in the Cloud and that I must call Apple at once to resolve this security breach. I hung up before she could finish her scripted spiel. This wasn't the first time I'd received a robocall and it surely won't be the last.

Robocalls were worse than ever last year, rising to 2.5 billion calls nationwide, and they don't show any signs of slowing in the new year. They are currently the number one consumer complaint to the FCC.

With the repeal of the FCC's Internet privacy rule, internet service providers are now free to sell consumers' information to any third party they choose. This makes the likelihood of being targeted by illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing that much greater.

Internet-powered phone systems have made it affordable and easy for scammers to place these illegal calls from anywhere in the world and to hide from law enforcement by displaying phony caller ID info.

As of this writing, the Federal Trade Commission has brought over 100 hundred lawsuits against more than 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of unlawful robocalls and other violations of the Do Not Call list.

With any luck, that number will grow as more of these ne'er-do-wells are brought to justice. For now, though, they will continue to disrupt more and more people with their invasive and erroneous messages.

The good news is, there are plenty of steps that one can take to deal with this nuisance. The first thing one should do is familiarize oneself with the tactics companies use to fool people into volunteering personal information.

The most common ploy used by robocallers is spoofing. Utilizing software, the robocaller transmits a number other than the one they're really calling from. Some of these illegal operations will actually send a number to your caller ID that belongs to the IRS, a famous software company, or your own utility company.

This ensures that you will trust the call and give them whatever information they are requesting. Robocallers posing as the IRS will attempt to convince you to pay taxes that you don't actually owe under threat of arrest or even jail time. Others will pose as a computer support service and try to charge you for removing a supposed virus from your PC.

These and other gross violations of Americans' privacy are occurring every day which is why it is imperative that people keep up on the latest scams and defend themselves against such threats.

If you see “private,” “unknown,” or “unavailable” pop up on your caller ID, chances are, it's an illegal robocaller or other illegal telemarketing operation.

In the past, folks have even sent cease and desist letters to debt collection companies and other telemarketing firms to little effect. It has become increasingly difficult to stop the harassment. Nevertheless, methods do exist.

There are many ways to prevent or limit these unwanted disruptions. One can use robocall-blocking technology which detects robocalls and stops them before they can reach you. Some providers like AT&T offer robocall-blocking tech to their customers.

There is also robocall-blocking apps for mobile phones, although device compatibility varies widely. Before selecting a call-blocking app, one must consider an app's compatibility and efficacy. Their effectiveness is really rather subjective with many finding them to be utterly useless.

Like the Do Not Call list, robocallers often find a way around these apps and criminals are only becoming more sophisticated in their means of targeting their victims.

When signing up for a service, one is voluntarily giving their phone number to a given company. This raises further privacy concerns as it is more than likely that said company will sell that phone number to a data broker.

Fortunately, there are a wide range of privacy tools on the market that can protect this information and ward off cybercriminals and the like. For those using mobile devices, a VPN (virtual private network) is your go-to solution for hiding your IP address and maintaining anonymity.

VPNs provide military-grade encryption and multiple layers of security for those who want their information and activity to remain private and away from the scrutiny of bad actors. Other strategies for coping with the problem are being developed as well.

When they're not targeting us over the phone, they're targeting us online. If you have an email address, you've undoubtedly received messages from scam artists. For those with a Netflix account, an email scam has been circulating where members receive a message with a subject line that reads, “Your suspension notification.”

When one opens the email, they are given a link to click on to “restart membership.” Those who click on it are taken to a fake Netflix page where they are prompted to enter their login details and credit card info.

This is just one of the many scams going around right now. With 3.74 billion global internet users, these trends can affect anyone at any moment. Now is the time for people to take security into their own hands. If we don't protect ourselves, nobody else will.

Sam Bocetta is a defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and a freelance journalist. He specializes in finding radical — and often heretical — solutions to "impossible"​ ballistics problems. Through Lakeview Capital, he also cultivates funding for projects — usually naval, defense, and UAV startups. He writes about naval engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, marine ops, program management, defense contracting, export control, international commerce, patents, InfoSec, cryptography, cyberwarfare, and cyberdefense. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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This morning, I received a phone call. A quick search online told me that this was the phone number of an Apple Store that operates out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I did not pick up the phone and, eventually, the caller hung up.
robocalls, scammers, spoofing, caller id
Wednesday, 11 April 2018 05:01 PM
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