Friday, September 29, 2006

VOIP Spoofing

Until this morning, I'd never heard of this term even though I knew a little bit about what it means. So here's is what prompted it:

My parents had a really weird thing happen last night. My mom and dad had just gone to bed around 11pm when the doorbell rings and there are 4 cops at the door. Apparently the police dispatcher had gotten a call from the Verizon operator who said she had a call from my parent's phone number with someone saying they were about to commit suicide and were trying to get the cap off of a bottle of rat poison. (BTW, my mom is the head of a psych unit so she knows mental health issues VERY well!)

My parents had NO clue what was going on. They had spent the evening watching TV while my 28 year old sister was just doing her laundry. No one had been on the phone except to call me much earlier in the evening. So obviously the police weren't sure what was going on and neither did my parents.

But when my mom relayed the story to me this morning, I remember reading somewhere about people using VOIP (and some sites on the internet) to change the number from which you are calling from to make fake phone calls and have a different number come up on the caller ID. I told my dad about it and while he knows a good bit about technology, he had no idea about this.

So I started my research and on Wikipedia (gotta love that site!) it introduced me to the term of "spoofing" which apparently has little to do with entertainment these days and more to do with fooling people using the internet. (Phishing falls under this category too.)

Apparently, if you have VOIP and you use one of these websites, you can manipulate what the caller ID says on the people you call. I guess it could be used for "good" purposes, but mostly only seeing it being used for bad ones. It's gotten press recently when scammers have used it to call older people (or the not so elderly) posing as bank employees and because the caller ID shows they are calling from the "bank" they will give out information. And in my parent's case, someone used their phone number when calling the Verizon operator.

The strange thing is, my parents don't have Verizon - they have Comcast VOIP so I'm wondering if whoever did it assumed that they had Verizon since the majority of people do in this area on their land line??

VERY interesting! And kind of scary!


Viv said...

Very crazy! So someone just did this for kicks? Remember when pranks were calling someone and hanging up. Or ringing a door bell and running away. Oh boy! Glad it wasn't anything more serious.

Christine said...

Weird....and scary, too! Glad it turned out to be relatively benign, but I'm sure it scared the heck out of them!