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A new service set for launch Tuesday allows cellphone users to unmask the Caller ID on blocked incoming calls, obtaining the phone number, and in some cases the name and address, of the no-longer-anonymous caller.
The service, called TrapCall, is offered by New Jersey's TelTech systems, the company behind the controversial SpoofCard Caller ID spoofing service. The new service is likely to be even more controversial — and popular.
"What’s really interesting is that they’ve totally taken the privacy out of Caller ID," says former hacker Kevin Mitnick, who alpha-tested the service.
TrapCall's basic unmasking service is free, and includes the option of blacklisting unwanted callers by phone number. It also allows you to listen to your voicemail over the web. It's currently available to AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers, with support for the other major carriers due within weeks, says TelTech president Meir Cohen.
"It’s not meant for spies, it’s not meant for geeks, it’s not meant for any specific target audience,” Cohen says. "Everybody hates getting blocked calls, and in this day and age they want to know who’s calling, and they want the option of taking the call or not."
Consumers have had the option of shielding their number from display since Caller ID was introduced in the early 1990s, either by dialing *-6-7 before placing a call, or asking their carrier for blanket anonymity for their line. But TrapCall takes advantage of a loophole in Caller ID blocking that’s long benefited corporate phone customers: Namely, calls to toll-free numbers are not blocked, because those calls are paid for by the recipient.
TrapCall instructs new customers to reprogram their cellphones to send all rejected, missed and unanswered calls to TrapCall’s own toll-free number. If the user sees an incoming call with Caller ID blocked, he just presses the button on the phone that would normally send it to voicemail. The call invisibly loops through TelTech’s system, then back to the user’s phone, this time with the caller’s number displayed as the Caller ID.
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