Last week I received a daytime call from my daughter, her beautiful smile flashed on my iphone. Immediately I knew there was a problem, my daughter is too busy to call me during working hours. I was prepared for the worst.
But it wasn’t my daughter. In a crowded room that sounded like a hospital, a woman informed me that she was using my daughter’s phone because my daughter was hurt and in the emergency room. That initiated a panicked sequence of the caller asking me to talk louder and me screaming for more information. Frustrated, the caller hung up.
Frantic, I called back, but it went to voicemail.
I texted my daughter, no response.
I sent my daughter an email, the minutes ticked by while I refreshed an empty inbox.
In that instant, I realized that I had no way to find my NYC-based daughter. I didn’t know her work colleagues and her business didn’t have a receptionist. Employees used their own cell phones.
I searched her company’s website and LinkedIn for an HR contact. I found the cell phone for an HR rep and called her.
It went to voicemail.
I found an HR email address and sent an email labeled EMERGENCY, URGENT, Help—asking them to confirm that my daughter was at work.
Within 10 minutes, my daughter called. She had been in a meeting away from her cell phone or computer.
It was a curious malicious or spoofing call. The caller didn’t ask for money or information. If she was trying to record my voice, she would have only recorded screaming and I do not use voice recognition features.
Most frightening was that the caller knew to ghost my daughter’s phone even though we have a different last name.
I mentioned this to my aunt who had recently received a call from her “grandson” saying that he was hurt and needed money. My aunt is nobody’s fool, so she told the caller to hang up. She called her confused grandson back. He was fine. Another malicious call.
I have a very cautious friend who was spoofed by an “Apple Tech rep” informing her that a virus had invaded her Apple computer and they were tasked with removing it. The “rep” only needed some personal information…in time she realized that it was a spoofing call.
My financial advisor is now notified when a client requests a suspicious wire transfer. He calls the client and talks him through the request, typically a malicious call. He has saved his clients thousands of dollars.
The FCC says that unfortunately these malicious and spoofing calls will only get worse. VoIP calls are inexpensive and there is virtually no accountability, many are generated overseas.
We all get them.
I personally have been informed that my credit card has been compromised, that the IRS has put a lien against my property and my personal favorite, that the sheriff is coming to arrest for me an outstanding warrant. Think about it. Why would the sheriff call to make sure that I was home before he comes to arrest me?
My call was taken to another level because the spoofer knew both our numbers and our relationship.
The data was probably obtained from hacking my cellphone supplier’s website (since my daughter’s cell phone is on my plan). Verizon confirmed me that the information most likely came from a hack of their site but insisted that only my account had been hacked.
So far, I only lost a ½ hour of panic. But I know that others have lost more…so here is some advice I learned from the Verizon fraud representative.
If you get a call saying that a child or grandchild needs money, hang up and call back.
Unless you can personally verify the information, do not send money and do not give up identification codes.
My daughter was embarrassed because her office went crazy checking on her to make sure that she was okay.
I was not sorry.
I was just being a mom.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.