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Fake caller ID causes frustration for businesses, government
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Fake caller ID causes frustration for businesses, government

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Call “spoofing” is creating problems for local businesses and government agencies.

Kurt Gunderson, who owns Peking Buffet in Baraboo, said someone has been making prank phone calls under the guise of the restaurant’s caller ID. He said the caller poses as an employee and complains that customers are eating too much.

“Whoever was doing it, they were trying to cover their actual voice to make it sound like they were Chinese,” he said. “One of my customers said they could tell that they were trying to make up an accent.”

Gunderson said he and his wife received several complaints from customers asking him to apologize for the rude messages. Following the incidents, which began in late June and continued into July, Gunderson posted a message to the Peking Buffet Facebook page telling customers that the calls were not from the restaurant. He also contacted Baraboo police and filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Call spoofing isn’t limited to Baraboo, however, and often is used for more nefarious means. According to the Federal Communications Commission, spoofing occurs when callers deliberately falsify the information transmitted to a caller ID display to disguise their identity. The practice often is used to trick someone into giving away personal information, so it can be used for fraudulent activity or sold illegally online.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced on Monday that the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline phone number has been spoofed. According to a news release, the agency received more than 75 complaints from consumers this week saying they received strange calls from the Consumer Protection 1-800 number.

DATCP Senior Communications Specialist Jerad Albracht said whoever spoofed the agency’s number was most likely trying to solicit personal information.

“Pretty much any scam phone call is going to be looking for one of three things,” he said. “They’re looking for money, they’re looking for your sensitive information — which would be your Social Security number, your address, your phone number — or they’re going to be looking for your financial information.”

Albracht said phone numbers of government agencies at the state and federal level often are spoofed by scammers. Through hijacking the caller ID of reputable agencies and businesses, identity thieves are able to lure unsuspecting victims into their scams, he said.

“People know the names of the agencies when they come through, and they’re trusted agencies. And that gives people a reason to pick up the phone, and that’s what the scammers are banking on,” Albracht said.

While spoofing causes major problems for agencies and businesses, Albracht said little can be done to prevent scammers from manipulating caller ID. He said DATCP will work to raise awareness about why the agency might call, when those calls might come and what number the agency will call from. He said the agency also will continue to work with the FTC on phone scamming cases.

“The best we can try to do is let people know that this is out there and to give us a call, ironically at that same number, and let us know if they’ve gotten a call, so we can try to track this,” he said. “We work on all kinds of phone scam issues with our federal partners at the FTC in particular.”

Gunderson said he recently received an email from the FTC stating his case had been closed. He was not provided any specific resolution.

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

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