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Spoof calling: TODAY'S TMJ4 newsroom put to the test

Posted at 8:53 AM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 23:24:23-04

When your caller ID says it's from work, or your doctor or even the IRS, do you pick up?

If you don't answer, they just call back a couple of times throughout the day,” said one Milwaukee area woman.

It’s known as a spoof call, when the caller disguises their identity mimicking a familiar number.

“It will be like a 414 area code, but then it's from some other city or whatever,” said a Milwaukee man.

Cyber security expert, Michael Vieau with Brookfield tech company Sikich, was careful not to give out his trade secrets, but shows how easy it is to make a spoof call.

With Vieau’s guidance, Consumer Investigator Kristin Byrne put it to the test, calling TODAY’S TMJ4 co-workers, so that their caller ID would be whatever number we selected.

“We’re calling Nicole, and we’re going to have it come from Jessie,” Byrne said.

Jessie, by the way, was sitting in the same meeting with Nicole. She never placed a call, despite what the caller ID said.

If it's a bad actor behind the effort, Vieau warns the stakes are higher.

“Maybe I need your username or password, or whatever the scam is. I can fool you into doing what I want you to do,” Vieau said.

“As a cyber security expert, what can your average consumer do to protect themselves from the bad guys?” Byrne asked.

“The best thing to do is not to answer the phone,” he continued.

“I would just reject the call so it doesn't go to your voicemail.”


SSA scams

FTC, 4/12/19: “SSA Imposters top IRS in consumer loss reports []

One-ring scams

FCC, 5/3/19 (PDF link): “Scammers looking to defraud consumers by prompting expensive call back []

FTC, 2/10/14: “’One-ring’ cell phone scam can ding your wallet []