Telephone Number Spoofing: Personal Injury Solicitor Sets Out The Types Of Telephone Scams To Look Out For And What To Do If You Are Affected
This article describes different types of telephone scams relating to personal injury that you should look out for; how businesses can be affected by spoofing together with what businesses & members of the public alike can do if they are being affected by scammers.
Personal injury scams reported to our business
Not too long ago – we received a large number of calls from members of the public calling our direct dial personal injury helpline office phone – to say they were returning a missed call; others that they had spoken with someone from our offices and wished to check the company status and yet others saying that they had been abused on the phone.
Often, the person who called the member of the public had a foreign accent and from their intonation seemed to be living overseas; on other occasions the caller would be evasive about their true identity mentioning many different official sounding bodies; even a few callers suggested that they worked for our company or referred to our website.
On many occasions our direct dial helpline number was shown as the number ID that was calling, which initially we believed must be impossible.
As a solicitors practice – we are aware of our duty never to cold call nor to have relations with companies that do.
This article sets out a few tips about telephone scams and steps that can be taken to attempt to help eliminate the problem.
We do not consider ourselves experts in attempting to resolve this problem, but have written this article to help those affected as we have been in the past.
What is telephone ID spoofing?
On reporting my complaint to the authorities we learnt of something called “spoofing”.
This is a means by which someone can call (even from abroad) hiding their true number and showing the ID of another number totally unconnected to them. The number showing as calling on your phone may be a non-existent number, a personal number of an unknowing individual or a number of unconnected business based in the UK. All of which are not the true number that is calling you.
It seems that this “spoofing” can be done when calling from an internet or VOIP phone (voice over internet protocol). Such phones do not have a real number in the true sense, as would be the case if the call was made from a typical hard-wired analogue phone. This allows technology to show a different number ID than the one actually used as the caller.
If this call however was made to a landline – by using 1471 (last number redial) you should be able to check the true number or alternatively if on a mobile, you can make a record of the exact time & date you were called and on your monthly statements check the number showing, which should be the true number not the false caller ID.
Be warned: Spoofing extends not just to phone calls – but email spoofing. Here it is as though the email came from another email address.
See the Wikipedia article detailing the different types of spoofing.
What can a business do if they suspect spoofing is occurring?
As a solicitors’ practice – we are aware that anyone expressly or impliedly representing they are a solicitor when they are not – is committing a criminal offence. This would be the case if someone is spoofing a solicitor business office number.
The process which can be followed includes:
1. Call the police
It does seem a strange step to take, but dial 111 and let them know. They can guide what best to do and whether they consider it a matter that they can help with.
2. Call Action Fraud / Policing For Cyber Crime
Go to the Action Fraud website or call them on: 0300 1232040.
This is a very helpful cyber crime police service – where you can report online or by phone, receive a crime number and go online to see how your complaint is progressing.
3. Call your telephone company provider
Your telephone company provider will check your telephone line security to ensure that someone has not in someway tapped into your telephone line. The will also rely on your crime number to do some extra secretive investigation.
4. Let the Solicitors Regulation Authority what is happening
It is always a good idea to let your the Solicitors Regulation Authority know about what is going on – even though you are the innocent party. It is not only good practice, but should the SRA receive a complaint by a member of the public (mistakenly believing your business was involved) – you can refer to the earlier report that you have made, which can support your innocence.
The SRA will also post an alert about the scam on their website.
Warning members of the public who call you
Our approach was to answer every call and explain to members of the public that the call was not made from our office and that should they see the number again it is a spam call, should be ignored or barred, no personal details should be provided and the matter should be reported.
Even though many of the callers were understandably concerned or irate – pretty much everyone understood the situation and was appeased by the explanation.
What can you do if you are the receiver of cold calls?
Helpful guidance as to what to to do is provided in the Ofcom Number Spoofing Scams Article.
You can yourself seek guidance from Action Fraud and the police.
In addition, you can report the matter to the Information Commissioners Office.
Clearly your number has been obtained from somewhere and that might have been as a misuse of data.
The difficulty comes in the extent to which you can report. Remember be factual – do not presume.
For example, you might say the caller was from a certain number and said they worked for a certain business, but when you called that business they informed you that they had no involvement or had a different contact number.
If spoofing occurred – you would also need to be clear if you contacted the business on the number showing on your phone and describe the feedback you received.
Remember – be careful as you might be wrongly reporting an innocent business or individual and try and check the true number by using 1471 on a landline or by checking your mobile phone statements for the number showing as called (which chould be the true number).
Report to Solicitors Regulation Authority & Claims Management Regulator
Finally – if you discover that a Claims Management Company (CMC) or a solicitor’s practice are themselves cold calling you or acting suspiciously, you can complain to the regulator of that business.
Usually, in the footer of the businesses website you will find the regulator details.
The CMC claims management regulator was the Ministry Of Justice, but on the 1st April 2019 the responsibility passed to the Financial Conduct Authority / FCA.
Why do individuals and companies cold call or spoof?
The companies that do this activity typically fall into one of a number of brackets:
1. A telemarketing company from overseas, such as India or Pakistan
Often call centres overseas will cold call a list of numbers in the UK. They work on the numbers game asking if you have had an accident and trying to seem like they are calling from a UK based number.
They may well have chosen a reputable UK business to copy their number. This way when you check the number online you are fooled into believing they are reputable.
The laws in the UK and internationally can be different – Action Fraud will look into the situation for you.
2. Telemarketing companies in the UK
There are rules forbidding unsolicited cold calls in the UK – but somehow these companies can acquire lists of telephone numbers (often you may have unwittingly given consent to be called in a website’s small print, etc). The companies call and pester you to make a claim that might not exist.
Of course – you would not be persuaded, but be careful if you are as this is classed as fraud and lead to you yourself being prosecuted.
Often these telemarketing companies may have hidden their number to a number which doesn’t even exist or be calling from a mobile.
They may use many important sounding names like the Motor Insurers Bureau or some form of Insurance Federation, be evasive as to who they are or even say they are calling from another business that they are in no way connected to.
As a simple rule – never give any personal details to a company that cold calls you, hang up, ignore future calls and block the number.
If you think the call might be genuine – hang up, look online for the company you believe the call was made from, get a legitimate number and call to check that your suspicions are correct.
3. Criminal bodies trying to obtain information for fraudulent purposes
Many criminal bodies want personal information from you for many reasons – they may attempt to access your bank accounts or perpetrate identity fraud.
These are the most sinister type of callers and can often seem quite polite and well educated. Again, trust no one who cold calls you and hang up.
If you need to speak to your bank, telephone provider, etc – call them direct on a known number. Invariably you will be told that they had not made the call.
Summary of Spoofing
Businesses and individuals who spoof are trying to make money from innocent members of the public and often trying to blame genuine businesses with integrity.
Be vigilant, never give out details, call the business direct to check authenticity and report the matter to the authorities.