In the digital world, scammers wear many masks and have so
many ways of scamming you. It’s easy to
get confused, and that’s how many people feel when we talk about phishing,
smishing and other scam jargon. I
attended the “Spoof Proof Your Life” event from AARP at the Three Rivers
Convention Centre. I wanted to know how it felt to be a member of the crowd at
these events when speakers talk about robocallers, scammers and other fraud
prevention resources. Prior to the event
I speak with the attendees at my table and was pleasantly surprised to discover
- none of them had been scammed. After the presentation, I wanted to find out how
much they had learned about scams, robocalls and digital fraud practices.
The speakers included some prestigious members of the
anti-fraud community. Doug Shadel kicked
us off with a how-to for spotting robo-callers.
He included his own experience with a scammer who got his social security
number, eventually requiring legal action.
During the call an automated voice informed Shadel his social security
number had legal actions against it and ignoring it would potentially lead to
arrest if he didn’t return the call as soon as possible. This was the initial part of a 45-minute
conversation: Shadel described the confusing information and sense of urgency it
created - if he didn’t act and pay, he would go to jail. The wide eyes from the attendees showed the
persistence of the scammer really hit home.
As we proceeded with the program, Washington State Attorney
General Bob Ferguson focused on protecting one’s self from scammers, and Gus
Basualdo, Sr. of Microsoft gave us a digital safety overview. The last two speakers were Chuck Harwood the
Regional Director from the FTC and Kathy Stokes who is the Fraud Prevention
Programs Director for the AARP. Both had
great information, and then a demonstration from Doug Shadel showed just how
easy it is to clone a mobile number.
Doug Shadel asked Kathy Stokes to help with the
demonstration. Shadel had purchased cloning software earlier that day, something
that’s available for most phones for a few bucks. He proceeded to make it look
like he was calling from a local number.
What happened after that was shocking.
While using the program he was able to, quite convincingly sound like he
was someone’s granddaughter over the phone asking for help. This is how so many people are targeted and
scammed out of their personal information and hard-earned money. As he hung up the call, we were all amazed
and dumbfounded by what we had just heard and how easy it was to set up.
As the last speaker left the stage, we all asked the same
question. Did we learn anything? My tablemates all agreed; we would be much
more careful and share what we learned with others. When it comes to robocalls Doug Shadel shared
an interesting slide from his slide deck with the group which read, “Many Washington
adults rely on Caller ID to decided when to answer. The response from residents in Washington to
Toll Free Numbers is 22%, Local Area Codes 60% and Your Bank 85%.” After we saw how easy it was to clone that
number, we will all be more skeptical about answering the phone with numbers
from either our banks or in our local area code.