Sat, Feb. 22

Editorial: Only purpose of ‘Spoof’ technology is to accommodate criminals

The next time you grab your cell phone and go to your favorite app store, you can easily begin a new career as a criminal.

Someone did just that this week and one of their victims was the Cottonwood Police Department.

According to a news release from Cottonwood PD Sgt. Monica Kuhlt, a resident contacted police to report a scam.

“Someone called their number and the Cottonwood Police Department’s number showed up on their phone. The caller told them they have a warrant for their arrest and in order to avoid getting arrested needed to go to Walmart and send money. Fortunately this person recognized it as a scam,” said Kuhlt. “Our agency’s number was spoofed in order to make the scam more believable for the recipient of the phone call.”

Kuhlt went on to explain that making a false phone number, such as that of your local police department, show up on caller ID is easily achieved through the purchase of any of a number of apps available through any online store.

Kuhlt further noted that if police can catch the person making the call, they would be able to prosecute them for criminal fraud or extortion.

In this particular case, police do not believe the call is of local origin and Kuhlt, in turn, recommends people receiving such calls contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office at (602) 542-2124, 1-844-894-4735 (toll free) or email them at to report it.

But what’s most baffling about this particular type of crime is that while the very act of perpetrating the scam is illegal, the very means to make it possible is perfectly legal. Anyone can acquire the technology. Just go online and purchase the app.

Scam crimes and the technology that makes them possible have become so prevalent that we’ve watered down what should be called criminal fraud as a “spoof.”

“(Spoofing) has become synonymous with using a fake phone number,” Kuhlt said.

Hmmm. There was a time when the word “spoof” described a prank or a gag. The only desired result was a good laugh.

This is hardly a laughing matter.

Here’s something for state lawmakers to chew on.

If a scam operation can land the perpetrator in jail for fraud and/or extortion, how about coming up with a law to make it equally illegal to create and sell the technology that makes criminal scams so easy to pull off.

Spoofing apps aren’t developed, marketed and sold to allow people to pull harmless pranks. Their only use is criminal.

Treat the folks who develop and sell them as such.

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