TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

Summary: Launched on Tuesday, TrapCall reveals the phone numbers of and, in some cases, the names and addresses of blocked Caller IDs.

A service launched on Tuesday lets cell phone users unmask the Caller ID on anonymous calls.

TrapCall, which is offered by TelTech Systems, reveals the phone numbers of and, in some cases, the names and addresses of blocked Caller IDs. Toms River, N.J.-based TelTech is also the company behind the controversial SpoofCard, an Internet calling-card service that allows users to place calls in which originating caller numbers appear to be something completely different--like the White House switchboard.

Cell phone users have long been able to shield their originating number from display by dialing *67 before placing a call. However, cell calls placed to 800-numbers have been immune to this technique because the toll-free number is paying to receive the call. TrapCall takes advantage of that arrangement.

TrapCall instructs new users to reprogram their cell phones to send all rejected, missed, and unanswered calls to TrapCall's own number. When a blocked or restricted number appears on a cell display, the user presses a button on the cell that is normally used to send the call to voicemail. The call is then rerouted to TrapCall's toll-free line, where the caller's information is obtained and then sent back to the original call's recipient. All this reportedly takes about six seconds while the caller is listening to a normal dial tone.

The service, which is currently available to AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers, is free and includes the option of blacklisting unwelcome callers. Additional premium features include the recording incoming calls (which TelTech notes may be illegal, depending on the users' individual state laws), voicemail transcriptions via e-mail and text message, and the ability to listen to voicemail via the Web.

However, the service raises a couple of sticky privacy issues, especially for victims of domestic violence.

Cindy Southworth, director of technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told Wired that the service raises "huge concerns" for her that abusers would use the service to locate victims fleeing abusive relationships, especially ones in which the victim and abuser share custody of a child.

However, TelTech President Meir Cohen responded to those charges by defending the service as merely utilizing a process that has long been available to anyone with access to an 800-number.

This article was originally posted on CNET

Topics: Telcos, Hardware, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Why not just make my number an 800 number

    Then they wouldnt call me. They would think i was a business. Vongage offers 800 numbers.
  • They will be getting a lot of business this year.

    If there's any one industry that is on a hiring binge, it is the collection agency call centers. With record numbers of people behind on mortgages, credit cards, and every other kind of bill, the phones are ringing off the hook nationwide. And many people have abandoned their landlines in favor of cellphones, so this looks like a service tailor-made for people who are dealing with hundreds or thousands of abusive collections calls.

    As far as privacy is concerned, THERE IS NONE. This is a red herring. Anybody who calls me on my cellphone is spending MY MONEY, and I am entitled to know who they are before I talk to them. Period.
    terry flores
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    Victims should NEVER use a personal phone line to call a victimizer. All these "shelter" types know this and their standard M.O. includes this. A public pay phone is the safest way to maintain anonymity and security.
    • What is a pay phone?

      When is the last time you looked for a pay phone? literally 90% of pay phones are gone. I live in a very small town (under 3000 ppl)at one time we had at minimum 12 pay phones. We now have one and it rarely works. There is a pay card phone at the Speedway Station, you buy a card with time on it and then swipe the card to make a call. When I lived in St. Paul, MN there were pay phones everywhere, last visit to my old neighborhood all of the pay phones are gone. Stopped by my old watering hole and brought it up to the famous football player owner. He said SBC removed all of their phones, the vandalism and lack of use made them no longer profitable. Nope it is Cellphones cellphones cell phones, who can survive without these little wonders? Apparently very few can as I am constantly bombarded everywhere I go with other people phone conversations. The Movie Theater, Restaurants, Grocery Store, Hospital, High School Sporting events, The Local Park, The Local Watering Hole, all filled with conversation, unfortunately they are all inane cellphone conversations and not face to face people talking.
      • That's right. Ameritech removed all the pay phones...

        several years ago (before they became part of SBC, before ATT). The reason was because of cell phones usage was making them too costly to maintain the service. A couple years ago, my mother was in intensive care in the hospital, in Indiana, and I noticed that at least there were STILL pay phones in the hospital waiting rooms, which is good, even though most of the people were using cell phones.
        • Hospitals Generally Do not Allow Cellphone Usage

          The reason for the payphone availability is that hospitals, in most cases, do not allow cellphone usage in patient critical areas! Even though digital phones are less likely to cause interference, the prohibition still prevails. I know of one hospital that uses a special internal mobile phone system that is designed to be interference free.
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    :"Anybody who calls me on my cellphone is spending MY MONEY, and I am entitled to know who they are before I talk to them. Period. "
    an excellent point.
    let me jack it up a notch:
    anyone accessing my "mind space" should have my permission, and approval, or not be allowed in the door.
    nobody would ever argue tat a porch light invades the privacy of the person knocking at the door. hmmm.never mind... probably somebody would.
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    It's about ####ing time! I have 3 teenagers and their friends LOVE crank calling me during work and late at night. Now I can call them back and let them know I know who they are! Finally I can put an end to the ATT customer service saying that the caller is "protected" under privacy laws. If the laws were to protect the abuse victims, then WHY ARE THE VICTIMS CALLING THEIR ABUSERS?? Sign me up TrapCall!!!!
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    In the past telephones failed to indicate the identity of the caller because of design and technical deficiencies, not because this it was ever a good strategy.

    If there is a need to shield the identity of callers then special services for that purpose should be created and regulated. Some means should exist to identify the caller in extraordinary circumstances.
    • Would SpoofCard still conceal identity

      Would SpoofCard still conceal identity
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    Sounds like your kids need some discipline. I tell you what, first hang up call we received because the boys friends only will talk when the boys answer... The phone was disconnected. Poor kids friends now have to address me as Mr. and ask politely if they might speak to one of the kids. I can only imagine the grief they must have went through telling their friends they are not allowed to call unless they identify themselves and ask politely if they speak to them. Ufda, I know, I know, I'm mean and cruel! Guess that's why all the kids in the neighborhood insist on playing over here. The kids are weird that way, even if they are made to behave they still like us. Too bad this theory has gone out of favor.
    • Going out of favor?

      No, it's not going out of favor. What IS going out of favor is parents actually parenting. It's amazing what kids get away with anymore, other people's kids that is. I know it sounds arrogant, but mine knows better. He knows that if he screws up that there are consequences, and screwing up includes not being polite to adults.
      • going Out of Favor

        AS IT SHOULD BE !!!
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    I just want to get the number of the telemarketers so I can block them. <grin> Or some other nasty thing that comes to mind when they call!
    • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

      How about when you get the number passing it around to everyone you know with the request that they call them and preach to them about doing onto other's as you would have them do unto you! Or would we get in trouble for harrassing them?
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    It's about time. I want this service. I have a cell phone for MY convenience, not for the world's, which I only give my cell number to people I know. Still, I would like to know if an unfamiliar number is some long lost friend/relative or just a wrong number. On the home phone, answering wrong number doesn't cost me anything, BUT on the cell phone, answering a wrong number costs ME! I keep telling my wife, when she gets a call on her cell, with an unfamiliar number, don't answer! If it's family or a friend, they will leave voicemail. Wrong numbers usually don't, because as soon as they hear the greeting/name, they realize their goof and hang up.
    If you REALLY want know who it was, just go to and do a reverse lookup on it and see where the call was coming from, at least the city, if not the person's name.
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    Wish we had that here in the UK
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    AS it should be.
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    These jerks are going to get people hurt and killed.
  • RE: TrapCall exposes anonymous cellphone callers

    When someone starts a class action after someone gets seriously hurt or killed on account of this ignorant move, count me in.