Mini-Rant: Spoofed Phone Numbers and Trust

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I’ve seen this more and more over the last year: I receive a phone call with a number that indicates it’s coming from a town or city near me. For instance, I received a call where the number reported to Chapin, SC. Curious to see if it was a company trying to sell something, I answered it. Of course, it wasn’t from Chapin. The company was based in Oregon and the person who was on the other end was in a call center that probably wasn’t even in the United States. Many of you have received similar calls.

Yes, it was a cold-call by a company looking to drum up business for their products or services. However, business relationships, like any other relationship, have to have some level of trust. When a company initiates contact using a deceptive practice like exploiting the flaw in the initiation protocol for caller ID, they hurt any attempts at establishing that trust and building a relationship. Not to mention that such a practice is potentially illegal.

I understand the rationale: we’re more likely to answer the phone if we see that it’s a number near us. However, not only does this practice impact trust, but it is training us not to answer the phone unless we recognize the number. We are starting to move from a slight chance of answering the phone for a number we don’t recognize to absolutely no chance. Therefore, the practice is counter-productive. Yet companies are still doing it.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think a company has a better chance of establishing a business relationship by doing everything it can to establish trust from the initial contact onward. I want to trust the folks I’m doing business with. Therefore, if you start by showing me you are going to engage in deceptive practices, then I don’t what to work with you. I’m sure I’m not alone.

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