Bell’s 17-year-old daughter was being tormented by cyber-bullying and then became the victim of phone number spoofing, which is someone or multiple people using apps or online services to impersonate her phone number.
“They are using burner numbers they are generating from this app,” Bell said. “It’s not her number, it’s not their number, and they are saying that they are her. They are threatening people and calling them names. They’ve told my daughter she should just kill herself and that nobody likes her.”
The relentless harassment has been going on for nearly a year. The Bells changed their phone numbers, changed their daughter’s school, contacted her phone carrier and have filed two complaints with Roseville police.
But Bell says the spoofing is now out of control. Now someone is using her number to impersonate an escort service. Upset people have even showed up at their front door.
“I have to say I am less than pleased with any kind of response,” Bell said. “Because we tell our kids to go to somebody and my daughter has gone to somebody. She has gone to the police department, and there is nothing that they can do.”
David Derigiotis is a cyber-risk expert with Burns & Wilcox.
“You would be shocked at how easy it is,” he said. “There are apps you can download on your phone and people use them for pranks. You can change your voice; you can put in any number that you want. It is so easy that teenagers, anyone can use it.”
He says there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself against spoofing. Don’t give your phone number out to everyone – and you have to reduce your digital blue print. That means going to these larger data broker sites to scrub your data and remove your personal information from public consumption.
In the meantime, he says there is a way to find the person responsible.
“There are ways to track people from their phone or their computer,” he said. “You can embed little text within a link you send out. All it takes is someone to click on that and you can figure out what general location they are in, what their IP address is. And from there you can use that information to figure out who their internet service provider is, who they are. They can be arrested possibly.”
At this point, that is the Bell family’s only hope, that police track down the person responsible so their nightmare can finally end and their daughter, who is going to be a senior in high school, can move on with her life.
“There are no consequences because they are hiding behind the computer screen,” Bell said. “And that is happening in society as a whole. These teenagers are not … this should not be what their life is.”