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Caller ID spoofing - coming soon to a phone near you

Caller ID - just say no

In my eternal quest for lower-cost telephony, especially when travelling, I downloaded a VOIP client package from VOIPBuster (opens in new tab), one of the several faces of Finerea, the Swiss company behind the Call 18866, Call 1899 and VOIPCheap (opens in new tab) telephone services.

The client software I downloaded allows users to enter the Caller ID of the number required. Yes, that's right - it allows you to make free or low-cost Internet telephony calls and select whose Caller ID you want the call to appear where you're calling from.

At least it did until last week, when I made the mistake of telling a telecoms industry pal of mine, who laughed heartily and said he'd believe it when he saw it.

The new client software for VOIPbuster no longer allows Caller ID selection - you can either enter your pre-assigned number for inbound calls, or withhold the outgoing number.

In the US, however, it's dead easy to spoof a Caller ID, as witnessed by services like Spooftech (opens in new tab), which allow you to route a standard voice call via the company's service and `become' anyone you want to be.

Only in America.

Or is it? Standard voice calls are effectively prohibited by Ofcom rules from generating non-standard Caller IDs, unless the company concerned can demonstrate to their telecoms carrier of the need for a different Caller ID being generated, such as where branch offices with a centralised switchboard are involved.

If you're a telco - no matter how small - however, you can generate what Caller ID you want, and quite legally.

And the cost of becoming a telco? Around a grand for the kit and a deal allowing you to insert your call traffic on a carrier's network.

The only light at the end of the tunnel is that the Federal Communications Commission (opens in new tab) in the US is investigating the whole issue of Caller ID spoofing, and says it will take action, if appropriate.

Ofcom (opens in new tab), the UK regulator, isn't saying anything about the issue, but a little bird tells me it is watching what is happening in the US - and here in the UK - very intently...