A new telemarketer tactic: Impersonating teachers

by Bob Sullivan, Credit.com

Caller ID isn’t always what it appears, and increasingly, criminal telemarketers are taking advantage of that.  Aggressive phone sales operators have pretended to be the IRS, and they’ve pretended to be charities, but apparently they’ve developed a new tactic recently — impersonating teachers, calling parents at home during the school day.

A flurry of calls starting last week arrived at consumers’ homes with “Teachers Phone” shown in the Caller ID displays. But those who answer don’t hear about a sick or misbehaving child, recipients say.

“It was a prerecorded message from ‘credit card services,’” wrote one victim on a telemarketing calls complaints page.

“There was a prerecorded female voice claiming to be from my credit card company saying that there was a limited-time offer to get a new credit card with a 6.9% APR,” said another.

The calls come from a telephone number that is allegedly in Brooklyn, N.Y., though that number could also be spoofed. Calls placed to it produce only a busy signal.

Dealing With Spoofers

There are two pages of complaints about the number on CallerCenter.com. The website Peopleyname.com, which permits reverse phone number lookups, indicates 155 consumers have searched for information about the number.

Margaret Sullivan — my sister — received the call on Friday. She said the timing was deliberate. “How mean, to call a home shortly after (parents drop) kids off at school. Parents will panic and answer,” she said. “What parent wouldn’t immediately pick up, especially at 8:30 a.m.?”

Caller ID spoofing has increasingly become a problem for carriers and the Federal Communications Commissions since it became a common telemarketer technique several years ago. Vagaries in the law prevented prosecution of spoofers, so Congress actually passed the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 in an attempt to tamp down the problem. The law made it illegal for a person or company to transmit misleading caller ID data with the intent to defraud. Many spoofers simply moved their operations overseas.

Truthfully, there’s very little consumers can do, other than ignore the information Caller ID offers, knowing it might be fake. If you receive any unexpected phone call, let it roll over to voicemail, and call back. And, of course, don’t give out personal information to them.