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UK's first caller ID-spoofing service shuttered after five days

Spookcall spooked

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Spookcall, the UK's first caller ID-spoofing service available to the general public, has decided to close less than one week after launch.

We reported the launch of the controversial service on Monday. It allowed anyone to impersonate any other phone number on a call recipient's caller ID display. Spookcall also offered customers the ability to disguise their voice using software. It cost £5 for every 10 minutes of faked calling.

In the US very similar systems have been used since 2004 by private investigators, ID fraudsters and prank callers. MPs expressed serious concern about Spookcall, and called on Ofcom to act.

Regulators wrote to the outfit to ask for more information after being contacted by the Register, and told us today that Spookcall had subsequently decided to withdraw its services.

Ofcom has declined to reveal what its letter to Spookcall said. The watchdog's guidelines on caller ID services are here. The Communications Act 2003 grant Ofcom powers to act against spoofing "where misuse of a network or service cause another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety. These powers may be exercised where end-users knowingly cause unauthentic or misleading CLI information to be sent".

It seem Spookcall backed down before it was slapped down. The website is now unavailable. It's unclear what will happen to credit minutes purchased this week.

Liberal Democrat culture media and sport spokesman Don Foster MP welcomed the shutdown. He said: "I am delighted to see that the Spookcall website has been taken down. The fact that this has happened so quickly raises serious questions about the legality and purpose of the service in the first place.

"While I'm glad that Spookcall appears to be no more, there are still concerns that similar services operating overseas may be used in Britain."

Spookcall's founder Royce Brisbane declined to comment when we reached him this afternoon, saying all dealings with regulators were confidential. The decision to close the service is thought to have been based on the potential costs of a legal battle, despite the legal advice the firm said it had taken prior to launch. ®

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