The phone call a local woman received recently conveyed more than a bothersome sales pitch.
It revealed that the phone number of Pekin Township had been used for the purpose of overriding the woman’s caller ID service and fooling her into taking the call.
The practice is called spoofing, or caller ID phishing. Those who perpetrate it seek to convince people they’re being contacted by a person or agency they know – a bank, credit card company or government agency – often to scam them into revealing personal information that enables identity theft.
In this case, the woman reported the caller gave her “a high-pressure sales pitch” before she hung up on him, Township Supervisor Janet Homerin said Wednesday.
“She said, ‘I took the call because I thought it was you,’” Homerin said.
Just as disconcerting, or perhaps mere coincidence, is the fact that the woman regularly visits the township’s headquarters as a “supporter,” Homerin said.
Homerin can only speculate whether the caller targeted the woman knowing her connection to the township.
Homerin said she reported the call to the phone company that services the township’s offices and learned Tuesday it likely was a case of phishing or spoofing.
“I don’t want anybody being taken advantage of in our name,” she said. “We have a lot of elderly clients” who might be more susceptible to a spoof-based scam attempt.
Diane Ingram, the township’s chief deputy assessor, said the phone number that also was displayed on the woman’s caller ID is one from her office that is rarely used to make calls.
“I don’t know how anyone got it,” she said.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, caller ID spoofing is a practice that’s been used for about a decade by people with equipment that enables a specialized digital connection to a phone company.
It’s an illegal practice if it’s used “with intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value,” according to the FCC website.
That the woman received a call from someone falsely identifying himself as from the township, a government agency, concerns Homerin. However, she’s now learned that she’s had a personal experience with spoofing.
“It happened to me,” Homerin said. “A woman called me at home and asked, ‘Why do you keep calling me at 4 a.m.?’ Her caller ID listed my number, but I never called her.”
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