'Spoofing' prank causes headache for Md. woman

According to the FCC, spoofing is common among identity thieves. Photo: Daniel Oines via Creative Commons

A Maryland woman says she's paying the price for phone calls she never made. It's all because of something called "spoofing" and it can happen to anyone's phone at any time.

Sylvia Livingston has some hesitation before answering her phone these days. For three weeks she and her husband were fielding up to 25 returned calls a day from people they didn’t know, all who said her number had popped up on their caller ID.

“They said ‘I want to speak to your husband’ and got a little rude, and so in this case she was calling me back thinking she was calling the company and asked to speak to a supervisor,” she says.

And there were more calls just like that one. Her answering machine was flooded with some 40 voicemails in one day from people claiming to have received a call from her number.{ } Livingston had soon realized she had been spoofed.

“Getting these phone calls every four or five minutes, it is disconcerting,” she says.

The Federal Communications Commission, who Livingston filed a complaint with, says by spoofing, “identity thieves who want to collect sensitive information, such as your bank account or other financial account numbers, sometimes use caller ID spoofing to make it appear as though they are calling from your bank, credit card company, or even a government agency.”

And for Livingston's sake it is illegal, although tracking down the female caller with a foreign accent who has been using her number isn’t easy. She has been keeping a list of all the returned calls she’s been getting and asking those who were phoned to also contact the FCC.

But perhaps the most unsettling is the fact that it isn’t clear what the person who hijacked her home phone number was going after, but it’s been nothing but a headache.

“I have an elderly father. My husband and niece were in a bad accident so we didn’t dare not answer the phone,” she says.