'Spouse spoofing' new robocall deception hits Central Florida

Local customers receiving calls that appear to be from significant others

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

A new kind of phone number highjacking, also known as spoofing, has emerged in Central Florida that makes the call appear as if a spouse or family member is calling.

John and Aileen Markham, of Orlando, told News 6 they were in their living room  when Aileen’s phone rang showing a name they both recognized. It was John Markham.

“We could have our cellphones side by side," John Markham said. “It could ring at any given time and say 'John’s cell' or 'Aileen’s cell.'”

The impostor calls, or “spouse spoofing,” is a new twist among the robocall schemes that began emerging this year.

The Markhams said they have averaged 30 robocalls every 10 days and the spouse spoofing started a few months ago.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, “Caller ID spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity."

The odd thing is when the calls come in, according to the  Markhams , no one is on the other end of the call and there is no message.

“It seems like the bad guys are somehow getting lists of connected numbers and trying them out," Robocall expert Dr. Alex Quilici told News 6.

Qulici, the founder of California -based YouMail Inc., said  he is not sure if the source for the numbers is from "the contact lists from apps, data from breaches, or publicly available data they'll grab.”

"You're onto something and we have to figure out what," Qulici said.

News 6 viewer Gary Bouvaird said his entire family was at home when their cellphones started ringing a few minutes apart.

“My wife, son and I were in the living room watching TV," Bouvaird said. "I get a call on my home phone, from my son’s cellphone. His cellphone was in his bedroom.”

Bouvaird said the family never answered the calls but the calls kept coming.

“Then they went right down the list spoofing next," he said, “My wife’s cellphone number, then my daughter's cellphone number, then even my own cellphone number, I’m telling you, it really shook us up!”
News 6 and YouMail Inc. will continue to investigate the spouse and family spoofing calls.

“The thing I’ve always been worried about with spoofing is that they’re going to be able to spoof your contacts, Quilici told News 6, “Because that’s when you’re going to pick up the phone.”

Last month, YouMail Inc. collected reports of 5.23 billion robocalls.

Have you received an unusual robocall? Contact News 6 investigator Mike Holfeld at MHolfeld@wkmg.com.

For information about Youmail Inc. visit Youmail.com.

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