Half of all phone calls in 2019 will be from telescammers

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/09/19/half-of-all-phone-calls-in-201.html


“Neighborhood Spoofing,” which happens when a scammer disguises their phone number and displays it as a local number on a user’s caller ID. For example, a scammer may spoof their phone number to match the area code and 3-digit prefix of the person they are targeting and ultimately increase the likelihood of someone answering.

This is happening to me all the time. It’s kind of funny, because I haven’t lived in that area code for over 10 years, so there’s not going to be any calls from a “local” number that I wouldn’t already recognize.

But I also know they’re spoofing my number, because I’ve had the return calls from people who think I’m calling them. Which sucks.


I will observe that each and every one of these phone calls from the scammers is making some phone carrier money. Unlike eMail, access to the telephone system is not free. It is like junk mail, where each piece pays postage to the Post Office.
So the Post Office will not end junk mail, and the phone carriers will not end telemarketing.


I’m getting these all the time on my cell phone now but the junk messages in my voicemail are all in Chinese (maybe because the neighborhood I live in is largely Asian families and they’re playing the odds?)


I’ve had one of those, but my daughter’s had half a dozen. We tried translating some of them (I work for a school with majority-Chinese students so all our administrative staff are fluent) and they appear to be some kind of tax scam.


Why is number spoofing even a goddamn thing anymore? Why the hell isn’t ANI (the internal number used for calculating toll calls, etc.) required to match the Caller ID number?!

I can understand if you want to have your caller ID blocked - that’s fine - but then you should show “blocked number”, which would allow users to block all of those.

I assume at this point carriers are doing it because they make money off of it, and that shutting down ~1/2 of their cell traffic would be very bad for their stocks? Except that everyone knows that they make all their money off of their (bullshit) data rates anyway so… WTF?


Prolly not a pretty, young, blonde woman from Shutterstock that qualifies over coverage by national media outlets if she is abducted or has a flat tire will be calling us though?

I don’t think “Neighborhood Spoofing” is possible in France or in other European countries (not sure). I get telemarketing calls, but the number is always hidden.

1 Like

I get the spoofing at least three times more often than I get regular calls. It’s gotten to the point where I just let local calls go to voicemail half the time if I don’t have a contact entry for that number already.

It’s usually about financing for credit card debt I don’t have or I’ve won a vacation trip.


Sweet. I’ve gotten that fake call’s voicemail, too. I’ve gotten more voicemails from the robovoice IRS scam than I can even count at this point. The “cops” are still just moments from apprehending me for “four serious allegations.” :roll_eyes:


I literally only talk on the phone when I MAKE a phone call. I never answer. No point.


It’s because of differences in how our phone networks work.

In the U.S., there’s two different phone numbers associated with every call:

  1. “Caller ID” - which is basically the number your phone says it is to anyone asking. Easily spoofed, and that’s how “Neighborhood Spoofing” is accomplished.
  2. “ANI” (Automatic Number Identification) - the number that the phone company assigns to your phone based on physical location (for landlines) and device IDs (for cell phones). Associated with billing, so it’s extremely illegal to spoof, and the phone company comes after you with a nailbat if you try.

For some jacked-up reason, we never fixed Caller ID. And now it’s being abused so excessively that it almost makes phones unusable.


True that. I once saved my junk mail (the kind that is addressed to “Resident”, like advertising circulars) for a week, took it to my local US Post Office, and politely asked the clerk to help me get off the mailing list(s).

The polite and sympathetic clerk told me that neither she nor any of her colleagues could stanch the flow of junk mail, because, and I quote, “They pay us too much.”

There you have it, why we live in a crap economy: “They pay us too much.”


Same here; they are totally playing the odds and spamming huge swaths of numbers in areas that have a high concentration of Asian population, which means a lot of the Bay area.

I have to block a robocall where the recording is in Cantonese or Mandarin at least once a week.


I think they broke Caller ID for reasons back when major companies got their own in-house digital switch systems. They were big enough and built by the phone company equipment makers, so there was no problem taking a shortcut to some problems by letting the switch tell the phone system whatever it wanted.

Roll on to the future where a digital switch is a PC card or similar, or someone else’s service that will lie for you.


Third-party call blocking apps are largely ineffective when it comes to detecting spoof calls since they can only black-list against known scam numbers, not legitimate numbers that are momentarily hijacked by scammers.

“… momentarily hijacked by scammers” …? What the hell?

Are the phone companies vulnerable and incompetent, or complicit thieves? Damn!

1 Like

You say that like they’re mutually exclusive.


Nope, those calls are, for all practical purposes, free. They are VOIP (internet calling), often from outside the US. For the cost of subscribing to a VOIP gateway, they can make all the calls they want. If it’s a human calling, there’s that cost, though using third-world labor, it’s pretty cheap. Robocalls have almost no per-call cost.

Also, it’s these unregulated VOIP gateways that makes spoofing numbers so easy.


And swatting.


Er… Correct me if I’m wrong, but the telephone companies are making money on the “gateway” part of the equation, which requires translation from IP -> voice, so they have to have a set of business lines that can handle their call volume.

Business lines ain’t super cheap.

1 Like