When dozens of strangers began calling the home phone number of Little Mountain resident Tom Hood, the retired credit manager was mystified at his sudden popularity.
But after a few brief conversations, Hood came to the realization that somehow a telemarketer was rerouting calls through his home phone number. The telemarketer didn’t leave a message when they called random numbers, and residents from across the province were left with Hood’s phone number on their call display. And so they called, and called, and called, to find out why someone from Vancouver was calling them.
“So far I’ve had about 200 phone calls,” Hood told me last week. “And I’ve had some very nice conversations, but some are very concerning.”
In one case, an elderly man from Vancouver Island told him over the phone that his wife is gravely ill in a Vancouver hospital. So when the senior saw the Vancouver number on his call display, he feared the worst and called Hood in a panic. In another case, a frantic mother from northern B.C. told Hood her son recently moved to the city. She saw the unfamiliar Vancouver phone number and leapt into mom mode and feared he’d been hurt or was in trouble.
Hood is not a Telus customer, but he contacted the company regardless because almost every person who called him from across the province is. Hood believes that since the calls were being made through the Telus system using its equipment, the company would share some responsibility. But Hood was wrong. Hood’s phone service is through Primus Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of Virginia-based Primus Telecommunications Group Incorporated. Primus is what’s known as a “competitive local exchange carrier,” a term used to describe companies that compete with established telephone providers.
Hood said he contacted Primus, where a customer service representative told him the problem had been reported to Bell Canada, the company through which it operates locally. Hood said when the calls continued he contacted Primus again and was told the problem had been resolved. After Hood’s phone continued to ring with calls from strangers, he contacted me. I attempted to contact Primus and sent several emails to their media relations department. After a week of trying, I received no follow-up calls or emails.
And while no one from Primus returned email inquiries about Hood’s problem, Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall followed up with both an email and a phone call. Hall confirmed there is nothing Telus can do since Hood is not a customer, but he offered useful information.
According to Hall, the telemarketer is likely using an auto-dialler, which allows one call to dial hundreds, if not thousands of phones at once. Robocalling, in other words. He adds the telemarketer is likely located off shore.
The telemarketer is also using “caller ID spoofing,” which is becoming a real problem, but according to Hall, there is no legislation banning the practice. He likened a legitimate use to the Courier’s main switchboard. When I make a call, it’s the Courier’s main switchboard number that shows up, not my direct line. Using an unsuspecting person’s phone number to reach thousands for the use of telemarketing is the dark side of caller ID spoofing.
Hall says as far as Telus is concerned, ID spoofing should be deemed illegal, but there has been no move by government to make that move. He also added Telus was unable to assist Hood because, since he’s not a customer, it would be a breach of privacy to investigate a service not their own.
We have caller ID on our home phone and while it serves its purpose for the most part, I’m beginning to wonder if it might need some tweaking or even protection through federal legislation. Perhaps that’s something the federal Conservatives will consider in the near future.