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Ofcom swoops on caller ID-faking firm with... request for information

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Ofcom said today it has responded to the launch of a new service enabling scammers to spoof their caller ID by, erm, writing a letter to the firm responsible.

Yesterday we reported on how members of parliament have asked regulators to examine Spookcall, a new company that has brought the US practice of caller ID-spoofing to the UK. It's commonly used Stateside for identity theft, prank calling, fraud, voicemail hacking and by private investigators.

Reaction to the emergence of caller ID spoofing in the UK by the El Reg commentariat was negative, to say the least.

Our report of the MPs' call for action came after we told Ofcom about Spookcall on Monday. Today, following three days pursuit we were able to extract this comment from our communications regulator: "Ofcom is carefully examining Spook Call's [sic] service as detailed on their website and has contacted the company to gather further information about the nature of their service."

We can't tell you what's in the letter to Spookcall, because Ofcom says it's a hush-hush confidential mum's-the-word secret. We don't know when it hopes to form an opinion either. But it's promised to let us know when it does.

For its part, Spookcall says that its services are entirely legal in the UK.

While we wait for Ofcom to grind into gear, Spookcall will be offering anyone who can pay £5 for every 10 minutes call time the chance to replace their real dial-out number - which appears on the call recipient's display unless it's withheld - with any other digits.

Ofcom's had a while to ready itself for the launch of such a service in the UK. Caller ID-spoofing systems have been publicly available in the US since 2004, and legislation is currently under consideration in Congress to outlaw their abuse.

In fact, Ofcom told the BBC in 2005: "We are aware of it and are monitoring the issue." Yes, Ofcom has been monitoring the issue so closely that the first it apparently knew about Spookcall was when we rang on Monday.

We've contacted BT for a view on Spookcall, but it hasn't returned our call. ®

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