Companies work to stop phone, text scams

Public must remain vigilant


You receive a text from your bank or some other entity, and it requests you call a certain phone number. It may promise you a loan with very desirable terms or some other opportunity. Or it may hint that something must be straightened out to avoid some sort of trouble.

So, you consider calling the number or at least responding to the text.

But stop and think.

Is this the business’s normal, everyday phone number, the one you’ve used for years? If not, you may be walking into a scammer’s trap. Even responding to the text tells the texter that someone is at your number, so you may receive a follow-up phone call from a very convincing caller.

Con games are as old as mankind and the forms they take are limited only by the imagination. As new technology becomes available, con artists adapt to take advantage of new opportunities. In fact, the newer the technology, the less savvy the potential victims. And scammers count on that.

Texts are currently very popular with scammers, but of course the old phone call scam is still alive and well. And as scammers become more adept, they become very difficult to recognize — until it is too late.

Fortunately, the consumer has some friends in the corporate world who are fighting this battle on their behalf — often behind the scenes in a hidden way.

Local resident, telecom security adviser Dino Guglietta works with a company called VoiceAlerts, which operates within the infrastructure of various carriers. When people think of telecom providers, they often think of the big ones, like AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon, but in reality, there are many, many providers globally. In fact, a call to the States from elsewhere is the world will travel across a chain of carriers.

“We sit within the carrier’s infrastructure, and we monitor this activity,” said Guglietta.

Essentially, the service acts as a firewall.

VoiceAlerts is often able to intercept phone numbers being used by scammers — usually a number that has been pulled out of service by the carrier but one that the scammer has acquired. When this number is intercepted, it prevents the victim from being connected to the scam artist.

Instead, the potential victim hears a message stating that not only is the number not in service but that it has been used in illicit activity. Now the person knows he or she has appeared on the scammer’s radar and to watch out lest the scammer try again using a new number.

In fact, as soon as the scam artist realizes his number has been shut off, he will typically send out a new text message providing yet another phone number.

Another company, Caller ID Reputation, works with VoiceAlerts, though it focuses on a different aspect of the issue. Businesses, whether large or small, register their phone numbers, which in turn tells Caller ID Reputation whether a given number is legitimate or not when it is used.

In addition, the company provides other services to its business clients.

Though some scammers do what is called “brand impersonation,” where they pretend to be a legitimate business or other entity, there is an even more difficult method to detect: spoofing. The target’s caller ID will say that the call comes from a trusted source, but in fact it’s a scammer disguising his true identity. The victim is directed to call a bogus number that leads back to the scammer.

Companies like VoiceAlerts and Caller ID Reputation play an important role in curbing the tide of scam calls and texts we receive, but ultimately each person must remain vigilant.

“Everybody needs to be really careful when they get a text message from somebody claiming to be a business, but you’re not absolutely sure it is – or a phone call,” said Gerry Christensen, head of partnerships and regulatory compliance at Caller ID Reputation.

Christensen offered two important pieces of advice:

  • Don’t respond to a text if you’re not absolutely sure who’s texting you.
  • Don’t call a number on a text unless you’re absolutely sure who it is.