By Rich Figel
First, the "hoofing" part as in dancing performers on stage: the new December episode of my Career Changers TV show premieres Sat., Dec. 7 at 8:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12 or high def channel 1012), and features people behind the Legends in Concert Waikiki show. Chief Operating Officer Brian Brigner (far right in above photo) talks about how he got into show biz via Indy Car racing, and the three "tribute artists" above share their stories too. Brian doesn't like to use the term "impersonators" because he says there are negative connotations, especially with the Japanese market, which makes up a big part of their business. I'll be blogging more about Legends and the other Christmas-themed segments next week. For now though, you can check out the opening intro on the CCTV YouTube Channel by clicking here.
Now the roofing and spoofing alluded to in the headline: on Tuesday, KHON ran an Action Line story that was prompted by an email I sent them over a week ago alerting them to another form of identity theft that has been going on in Kailua the past month or so. It began in early November with calls from a 702 area code, and a guy telling me he was with a roofing company that was working on homes in my neighborhood, and he happened to notice that there might be damage to my roof from the hail storm that happened back in March 2012. He claimed he lived in Kailua, but mispronounced my street name ("Kainui Drive" became "Kaunoi" or something like that) and had a slightly southern accent. That, plus the 702 Las Vegas area code, sent up a red flag. So I called him out and said, "You're not from Kailua. I can see your area code on my Caller ID, and you can't even pronounce 'Kainui' correctly." He shot back, "Well, you should be a Hawaiian language professor," and hung up.
I got some more unidentified calls in the following week that I ignored because nine times out of ten, they are telemarketers who ignore the "Do Not Call" list, poll takers, or are pre-recorded robo-calls from Brian Shatz. Sheesh, Brian, give it a rest!
Anyhow, on Nov. 22 I got a call from an 808 number with a Kailua 261 prefix. I was in the shower, so I let my answering machine record the message... which was garbled, but sounded like there were a bunch of people talking in the background. The Caller ID only showed the first part of the name as "Brian James B" -- which I thought might be Brian Brigner, the Legends COO I had just interviewed. Naturally, I called back to see if it was him. Turned out to be another Brian, who said he did NOT call me, but others had received similar calls that displayed his name and number. The person who, in effect, was impersonating the real Brian's Caller ID, was using the same roofing spiel I got earlier in the month. Apparently, he must have deduced the 702 area code and his lame attempt to claim he live in Kailua wasn't working... which is why he turned to "spoofing."
Brian (not Brigner or Shatz) told me he complained to Hawaiian Tel about the misuse of his personal phone number and Caller ID, but they said there was nothing they could do to prevent or stop it. When I Googled around for more info, I learned that it was NOT illegal and there were plenty of people selling spoofing apps to allow anyone to take YOUR phone number/Caller ID and use it for any purpose as long as it is not deemed fraudulent. In other words, if the telemarketer is working for a legitimate company -- say, setting up roofing estimates -- it's perfectly legal for them to assume a false identity in order to trick you into picking up the phone. As I told the KHON reporter, it may be legal, but at the very least it seems unethical.
Three days after I got the call from Brian's spoofed number, I got another one from a Kailua 262 prefix that showed an unfamiliar name on the Caller ID. This time I picked up... and it was the same guy who first called me from the 702 number. He must not have been keeping track of who he called or which spoofed number he had tried calling me from before, because he launched into the very same roofing pitch. When I cut him off and asked who he was working for, he paused and didn't answer. I pressed him on it, and he got testy. "Sir, calm down and I'll tell you who I work for, okay?" But he never did tell me if he was working for a telemarketing company that was hired to book appointments on commission, or if he was working directly for the roofer.
So I called the only roofing company I've seen working in my neighborhood the past few months, but the owner didn't return my call. One question I felt KHON could have asked when they followed up on my email is why has there been such an obvious push to book appointments to have roofs inspected for damage? As it turns out, I found the answer by Googling around some more. KGMB had done a story on it back in September because people were wondering if the "free" roof replacement deal they were hearing about was a scam. Well, according to the roofing company they interviewed, there was legit damage done by the Great Hail Storm of 2012... and if they were able to find evidence of such, lucky homeowners could put in insurance claims to cover the cost of having their entire roof replaced. Of course, someone has to pay for it though -- other insured homeowners in the form of higher premiums that reflect the cost of these payouts to roofers.
However, claims must be filed within a two-year window, which means the roofers are trying to make hay while the sun shines (for them) until March 2014. Whether or not the roofing services are legitimate, they should be ashamed of themselves for employing anyone who uses "spoofing" to arrange estimates. It's deceptive and a crappy way of doing business.
BTW, there have been attempts to pass federal laws to stop spoofing, but each time it was shot down. Big corporations contend there are practical reasons they need to be able to show a different name/number on Caller ID so that their telephone systems aren't bogged down with unwanted callbacks. Ironically, I almost ignored the call I got from the KHON reporter because his Caller ID showed "2oTH CENTURY FOX" and not his actual name or KHON. That too, is a form of spoofing.