On Saturday, 1st October 2022, I received a call on Telephone Number 0500-337242, the name that showed up on my screen was “Collins of Energy Commission”.
The Caller said he was in town to shop and realised that the price of the item he was going to buy has increased and needed GHS 60.00. I ignored him. He called again, and called a third time. A client in my office said he knows a Mr Collins at the Energy Commission and asked to speak to the imposter. When the latter admitted working with Energy Commission, I sent the cash.
On Monday, 3rd October, I called the number twice, it rang but there was no response. Then I texted the number – “Hi, are you Collins?”, I said. No answer. Then I panicked. I have been conned!
Although a cellular telephone is a product of a single inventor or innovator, there are many applications that are available to users in order to enhance the functionality of the appliance /apparatus.
One of them is Truecaller. Truecaller, is a Swedish company founded in 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden by Nami Zarringhalam and Alan Mamedii. The application (app) begun when the co-founders were just students who wanted to create a service that would easily identify incoming calls from unknown numbers.Interestingly, most of its employees are in India and not Norway!
First, against my better judgment, I sent money to somebody I had not met, quite unusual. The reason may be that the amount of money was not too huge. But what persuaded me was the Truecaller.
I called an Officer of MTN and explained the events and she said Truecaller is just a facility that any person can download and create any account using the name of an authentic person. In my case, the imposter simply cloned the name of a living person attached a recognizable institution and got me on a hook.
My research revealed that, Truecaller was created to identify who was calling. “Truecaller is a smartphone application that has features of caller-identification, call-blocking, flash-messaging, call-recording, chat & voice by using the internet. It requires users to provide a standard cellular mobile number for registering. The app is available for Android and iOS.”
Primarily, the app is to access a caller's information before answering an unknown call but that noble facility is being abused by unscrupulous swindlers! I wish to share with you some vital answers to a few pertinent questions that have been adapted and abridged:
- Does Truecaller give location?
The app does not provide GPS (…) or any other sort of live location data.
- How does Truecaller know one's name?
Truecaller gathers names and other details from the phone books of the mobiles on which Truecaller app has been installed.
- How does Truecaller know who is calling?
Truecaller is an app that identifies who is calling you in order to thwart fraudsters, telemarketers and spam calls. The app uses contact info sourced from network providers and data from other users to categorise callers into safe callers and spam.
Can Truecaller read one's messages?
Truecaller never monitors the content of a user's SMS messages. The app only processes the message locally on one's phone. The info does not touch the company's servers or leave one's phone.
- What is the importance of Truecaller?
It helps one to differentiate between normal, priority, spam and business calls with colour-coded Caller IDs. Anyone with the app can deter and even block calls from scammers, spam callers or any suspicious numbers.
- Can Truecaller identify a private number?
No, it is not possible. The number needs to be visible on the screen in order for Truecaller to identify it.
- Who can see one's Truecaller profile?
One's contact information is not available to anyone who does not already have it. Anyone who searches for one's name or wants to see one's phone number will have to get one's permission first.
- Does Truecaller show every number?
No, it is not possible. The number must be visible on the screen in order for Truecaller to identify it.
I have enumerated these responses to some questions to encourage users to inquire when in doubt.
I assumed wrongly that the popping up of a name means that the call is emanating from the photograph/profile of the original owner of that address. In my case, I trusted the judgment of my client who knew a man called Collins. The lesson is that, the imposter, was able to copy the name of a real person who works at Energy Commission with the name “Collins” but used his own phone number to associate with that name.
On Monday, 3rd October 2022, I telephoned an Officer of MTN who educated me. She explained that MTN does not control Truecaller and that it is an app owned by a company overseas. This led me to this investigation and the results that I wish to share with readers.
I suggested to her to inform her Company to publish a Disclaimer in a national newspaper, advising clients about the lurking dangers in on-line communication. She said, and I concede that MTN tells us not to respond to conversations that one is not too sure of but it can never be fool-proof! Sometimes, events just happen to alert us so that we may share our ignominy, embarrassment or folly with others so that the latter becomes wary.
My daughter told me she had also been duped once. She did not inform me to be on the guard. This is my first (electronic) e-faux pas. The modus operandi goes like this:
- A call and an innocuous request for money to pay for an item. The amount is not too huge; between GHS 20 – GHS 100 so that one's suspicion is not aroused.
- If one ignores the call, a second one comes through telling you the money will be refunded the next day.
- Having seen the name of the purported owner of the purported phone number, your trust is aroused.
- Another frantic call to signal it is an emergency.
- Depending on one's mood, one may succumb to the subterfuge.
- Any person in that state of affairs must simply ignore the caller, call the person whose name was displayed on Truecaller if available on that person's number or other number if available.
- If that person's number is inaccessible, one must wait patiently to get access, thus ignoring the earlier caller.
- One should not assume the owner of the phone number has a second number.
From my investigations, any person can simply buy a chip and use the name of an existing person to create an account. Therefore, a name displayed by a Truecaller app is not automatically a genuine client of the service provider. One must check further. I trusted the app and lost GHS 60.00; my daughter lost GHS 230.00 in an earlier scam. A name is just a name; one cannot be too sure of themselves.
I am poorer to make readers richer. Respectfully submitted.
By Kuuku Welsing-Jones