“Rachel from cardholder services” seems to have been around long enough that she should be in a retirement home by now. But, no, she just keeps on calling. The robo-call scammer who has been aggravating people for so many years is still interrupting meals, waking up babies and trying her hardest to steal money from the gullible.
Now your Better Business Bureau is warning that she has a new angle: lying about her identity on your Caller ID. This is a practice called “spoofing.” Technology has enabled scammers to make it appear as if their call is coming from another number. Some have even reported seeing their own number displayed when Rachel calls. She is also capable of displaying the name and number of one of your family members, friends or trusted local businesses. Rachel, and other scammers, have in effect rendered Caller ID technology obsolete as they continue the illegal practice of spoofing others’ phone numbers.
The Federal Trade Commission has reported that although efforts to stop Rachel have temporarily slowed her scams, she is still prompting around 150,000 complaints a month at the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry website.
Callers who respond to Rachel’s fake offer to lower their credit card interest rates find that at best the scammer only sets up a three-way call with the consumer and their credit card company to request a rate reduction. This is an action that any cardholder could do for free. Instead, Rachel charges for this “service,” sometimes between $495 and $1,595. Consumers are charged even in cases where the rate was not lowered by their card company.
In an attempt to stop Rachel the FTC is reaching out to the computer and telephone hacking community. The FTC has announced that it is hosting three separate contests at this summer’s DEF CON 22 hacker conference. DEF CON is the largest hacker convention and held every August in Las Vegas.
The contests are called “Zapping Rachel.” Entrants are challenged to come up with the technology to lure in and trap the Rachel scammers, a process called a “honeypot.” Some $50,000 in prize money is expected to attract hackers to the worthwhile goal of stopping Rachel’s continuing harassment of consumers.
What you can do
As the practice of spoofing continues to grow, your BBB has a few tips for you when Rachel or any of the other numerous phone scammers get you into their sights.
• Do not trust Caller ID. Your phone’s screen might display the number of a familiar and trusted person, but it can be faked.
• If you received a voice message with any sort of offer, do not call them back.
• If you answer and get a recorded pitch from Rachel or someone with a similar offer, do not press any buttons that you are prompted to press. This can cause you to receive even more annoying calls in the future.
• Never give out any financial information over the phone to someone who calls you, including bank account numbers, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. They want to steal your identity.
• Trust your instincts. If something does not seem right or seems too good to be true, hang up.
• Allow calls to go to voice mail that appear to be from your own number or a familiar one. Pick up only if you recognize the voice.
Perhaps someday Rachel will become a thing of the past. Until then, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of her demise have been greatly exaggerated.