Technology is a double-edged sword. In one hand, technology benefits billions of people in making their lives more comfortable and more cost-efficient while on the other hand, it is exploited by criminal elements because of their greed and to forward their selfish interests.
Like any other technologies, VoIP is also vulnerable to these threats. As technology relies heavily on the internet, VoIP can also be hacked and can be used in modus operandi, similar to scammers using landlines that have plagued almost everyone in the past.
Not only that; as VoIP offers a cost-effective solution to everyone, including criminal elements, the technology has become a tool for scammers in carrying their illegal businesses out.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article in which they have reported a spam operation has been exploiting the local community in Milwaukee. The article revealed that the illegal spamming activity has been calling residents in Milwaukee claiming to represent a local law firm by the name of “Anderson and Thompson.”
The modus operandi, according to the article, is that the group will call random Milwaukee residents under the disguise of a local law firm to collect an old debt from a legal conflict and that the debt must be paid immediately.
This is nothing new. This modus has been used ever since.
What makes this case unique and interesting is that the scammers are using a virtual phone number to conduct this operation, Wisconsin Better Business Bureau suspects. It totally makes sense because VoIP service providers are offering cheap calling rates and unique phone numbers to anyone who wants their services. This only means that criminals get to save money from using VoIP phones than by using an easily traceable number like their home phone number.
But, that’s not all that VoIP offers. Aside from being cheap and less traceable, VoIP service providers can also provide you with phone numbers in any area code, regardless of your actual geographical location. According to the report, the spammer is using a series of three phone numbers, all with a 414 area code, a local Wisconsin area code. This means that the scammers could be in an entirely different state while they victimize residents in Milwaukee.
There is a good reason for VoIP service providers to offer this feature, however. Having a fully customizable phone number with varying area codes help customers of a business to save money if they need to call the company with a specific location. For example, if a business is located in New York, but they have some business associates in Chicago, they might want to get a phone number with a Chicago area code so that their clients and associates do not have to pay long distance calling fees.
According to a 2015 VoIP Fraud Analysis report from Simwood, a leading telecommunications service provider, the toll fraud, and dial-through fraud are projected to cost consumers across the world over $46 billion. This discovery only proves that cybercriminals have found a way to take advantage of VoIP technology to carry out a new type of scam where they can make phone calls over the Internet, pose as a legitimate business, and request for personal and financial information.
Nextiva’s small business phone service, for example, starts at $19.95/month offers area codes in every state in the US. Small businesses especially prefer VoIP providers like Nextiva because they come with zero hidden costs and instant activation. Little to no costs on maintenance and hardware is another advantage.