Over Tk 100 crore is being cheated by scamsters using a new technique called "caller ID spoofing" to trick officials of the Prime Minister's office, members of parliament (MPs), businessmen and government officials, according to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
A senior official of the CID investigation cell told the Daily Observer on Tuesday that a gang using the "caller ID spoofing" demanded Tk 1 lakh each from 10 upazila chairmen of Bhola by claiming to be Nurunnabi Chowdhury Shaon, MP, of the ruling Awami League. They made use of Shaon's mobile phone number through this technology before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Meanwhile, Nurunnabi, MP, said he did not make such a demand and after the scam came to his notice he lodged a complaint with the local police station.
"The police station is not technologically equipped to deal with such a crime," said the Officer-in-Charge. The police headquarters ordered the CID to investigate the phone scamsters after the OC sought help of the police HQ.
According to CID another gang member ordered a UNO by claiming himself to be a ruling party MP of Tangail to distribute Test Relief (TR) and Food for Work (FFW) to their party adherents. They also used the 'caller ID spoofing' to use the MP's mobile phone number in the scam a few days ago.
The CID is searching for the phone scamsters attempting to extort and defraud in the name of MPs. The CID source said the scamsters are even using the technique to misuse the names of officials of the Prime Minister Office.
Smartphone apps or websites allow users to programme the number that shows up on a caller ID, spoofed calls are calls that come in showing an altered number on the caller ID. These criminals tend to target the more vulnerable population, which often includes senior citizens.
Police are warning people about the new ways scamsters are trying to steal their money by caller ID spoofing to make it look like a call from a credible agency.
"It turns out it's pretty easy to disguise your phone number. Websites like Spooftel.com and Spoofcard.com let you create an account to create whatever number you want pop up on someone's caller I-D. They also have mobile apps so you can do it right from your smart phone. Scammers can use this technology to pretend they're with a law enforcement agency or a loan company and try to gather your personal information. We spoke with a woman who had it happen to her family," a CID official said.
But investigators say there is really not much they can do to find them since the scamming operation is often conducted from overseas.
The problem is Internet phone services have democratized phone spoofing. There are websites that make the trick available to anybody. And now that people are pretending to be cops, some wonder whether our phone system is too flexible, the official said.
"Basically, to get rid of spoofing at this point would take an entire retooling, re-architecture of telephony networks across the world, but generally, police can solve these crimes," the official added.