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I am thrilled to announce that starting today, Whitepages will be powering the next generation of T-Mobile’s Name ID service, debuting in the new Sony Xperia® Z3 and available in stores now. This new Name ID service makes unknown numbers go away. With T-Mobile Name ID, you can identify unknown callers, receive alerts about spammers and scammers, and do it all within the native phone experience—that means there’s no app to find and launch—it works right when you turn your phone on.

This next generation of Name ID enables T-Mobile subscribers to see the names and phone numbers of who is calling, even if that person isn’t in their address book. By leveraging Whitepages’ proprietary data, the Name ID service helps T-Mobile customers: 

IDENTIFY the person, business or spammer/scammer associated with an incoming call or text, even if they are not in the user’s address book or contacts list, and receive additional information that’s auto-surfaced for outbound calls. Say goodbye to 10-digit numbers or unknown callers in the call history.

FIND information on millions of contacts and search more details on the caller or texter, including robust Whitepages contact data, spam score and feedback from other users on numbers associated with spam or scams.

MANAGE calls/texts with one-click blocking or unblocking, along with the ability to update your name and contact information for others to see.

What does that mean for you? When you make that call or send that text to a new friend or colleague, their name will automatically appear on your phone. There’s no need for you to input their info because Whitepages and T-Mobile Name ID does it for you.

Now imagine your airline calling to warn you of a change in your flight, or say it’s your bank calling about suspected activity on your credit card—you’ll know to answer those 800 numbers because Name ID will tell you who’s calling. Name ID also works for when you don’t want to take that call. When you receive a call from a telemarketer or call spammer, we’ll let you know so you can reject the call, block them and report the number as spam. All this happens right within the native phone, call history, messaging and address book of your device; it’s not isolated in a separate app that you need to find and launch every time you need it.

The new Whitepages-powered Name ID service provides T-Mobile users with the most advanced call and text identification system on the market. At its core is Whitepages’ analysis of over 18 billion calls and texts made by its users, as well as over 300 million phone numbers in Whitepages’ identity database.

T-Mobile Name ID is available exclusively on the Sony Xperia® Z3 smartphone today and will be included in new T-Mobile Android-powered devices moving forward as a free introductory service for 10 days, with the option to upgrade the service for a monthly subscription fee through T-Mobile.

Cell phone photo

 

Last week, Twitter announced a new service called Digits, which aims to replace email address and password login on mobile applications. Email addresses and associated password or single sign-on, usually with Facebook, are the most popular ways to log in to websites. While single sign-on works reasonably well in mobile apps, it is cumbersome to type in an email address and password on a small screen. Enter Digits.

Digits will enable the user to have their phone number verified by SMS and then as long as the same SIM card is in use, the user can continue to use the mobile app without having to log in. No need to remember which email address you used to sign up or a password. On Android phones, the SMS verification is seamless, the application will automatically detect the SMS message sent from Digits and verify the user and authorize them to use the app. On iPhones, the user has to take the additional step of entering the code sent to them through SMS. But once the verification step is done, the user remains logged in as long as they have the same SIM card. To get developers on board, Twitter is paying the SMS verification costs.

Verification by SMS and log in by mobile phone number is particularly valuable in many parts of the world where smartphones exceeds PC penetration. Many users in these markets don’t have an email address. In developed markets, younger users tend to use email less and are more comfortable with mobile apps and processes.

At Whitepages, we believe mobile phone numbers is a strong proxy for the identity of the user. Our popular Caller ID app identifies incoming calls and texts so you always know who’s calling and can decide whether you want to pick up or not. Mobile phone numbers with identity information (i.e. names) tend to get answered much more often than unidentified numbers. Digits uses the mobile phone number for a very similar purpose, to identify the user to the application. In both cases, mobile phone numbers are being used as a proxy for identity. 

 

Concept of hacking or phishing with malware program

According to Pew Internet Research, 68 percent of mobile phone users receive unwanted sales and marketing calls with one-quarter saying they encounter this problem at least a few times a week or more frequently. Clearly, call and text spam is a pervasive and growing problem in the United States.

Scam, spam and fraudulent calls and texts are sent from a rapidly changing pool of phone numbers, with new ones showing up every minute due to phone spoofing and other tactics that make suspicious activity difficult to identify. In addition to using mobile apps like Whitepages Caller ID, we suggest the following tips to “can the spam”:

· Hang up immediately. If you get a call from a government agency asking for a payment, hang up. No one from a federal government agency will call you randomly looking for a payment, even the IRS. The same goes for a call from someone saying you’ve won a sweepstakes; odds are you did not, and if you did, they can send you something in writing.

· Don’t call a suspicious number back. In the case of the “One Ring Scam”, the number looks similar to a number from the United States, but in fact is from the Caribbean and is not legitimate.  These scammers use phone numbers that issue additional charges to the bill of the incoming caller – most of the time consumers are unaware of the charges and they can add up very quickly.

· Never provide credit card information or any specific personal identification, like a social security number, to a caller that you do not know personally, even if you are familiar with the business they say they are from. Recent scams include calls that spoof energy companies and Microsoft technical support, for example.

· Do not pay money up front if you have been contacted about winning a contest or being accepted for a new insurance policy. For legitimate offers, an upfront payment is generally not required.

· Report suspicious numbers to help others avoid threats. Whitepages offers consumers the ability to report spam phone numbers through its Caller ID app as well as at Whitepages.com.

 

 

 

Fingerprint access

Last week I discussed how mobile phone numbers are coming to represent the identity of the user. One related topic I found fascinating is the Indian Identity Project. The Indian Identity Project, or Aadhaar, is an ambitious project to provide a digital identity for every Indian citizen, members of the second most populous nation at 1.2B people.  Over 400 million Indians live at what is known as the “bottom of the pyramid” or under $2 per day.  For these Indians, poverty has kept them out of many institutions and the general prosperity of the Indian economy.

The idea behind Aadhaar is very similar to the social security number in the U.S. except that it uses modern technology such as biometrics, smartphones and cloud computing.  Each person gets an iris scan, fingerprint scan, photo and a 12-digit identity number.  The images are stored digitally and can be easily retrieved to identify people with basic smartphone technology. The benefits of a digital identity are numerous.  It helps people get bank accounts, book tickets online and maintain health records. Plus there are no cards, which are usually counterfeited or stolen.  Because identity based on biometrics cannot be faked, Aadhaar can also be used to ensure those eligible to receive government assistance receive their full benefits without the middlemen who often take a significant cut of money and rations meant to help the poor.

Aadhaar is the largest and most ambitious project of its kind.  While the idea of a centrally maintained identity database based on biometrics would make privacy advocates in Western countries cringe, the program has widespread support amongst the general public. The benefits of a digital identity, available “anywhere, anytime, any way,” is seen as a means to participate in the economy and be recognized by institutions.

The project hit a speed bump in 2013 when the BJP government was elected to power.  Because Aadhaar was started by the previous administration of the Congress party, many in the new government wanted to cancel the program.  Thanks to Arvind Gupta, Technology and Innovation Head of the BJP, and others who faced political headwinds, the program kept going.  How the Indian Identity Project progresses and the value it creates for its citizens will be closely watched at Whitepages where a real identity for everyone in the world is our central mission.

 

No-Scam-Sign

I don’t think I know anyone who’d be excited to get a call from the IRS. But that being said, if I saw them ringing through on my caller ID, I would answer. I mean, wouldn’t you? A problem with our taxes is something we’re eager to get mopped up quickly because we’re all aware that the repercussions can be very serious.

Well that’s exactly the type of thinking being manipulated by one of the most pervasive phone scams of all time. If you’ve seen it in the news, then you know that the IRS Phone Scam has been going on nationally for about a year now, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have received over 90,000 complaints and identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams. If you’re saying “Yikes” right about now, then we’re on the same page. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with this scam and explore how to avoid these IRS impostors.

We’ll start by going through the typical way these scam calls go down. The scammer will identify her or himself as an IRS agent with a generic American name like Julie Smith or John Parker. (My personal favorites are from the scammers who took a page out of Hollywood when they picked their pseudonyms—Steve Martin and Leo DiCaprio’s “Titanic” character Jack Dawson are real examples.) The scammer will report alleged charges against you including defrauding the government, money owed for back taxes, law suits pending against the recipient, and nonpayment of taxes. But it’ll all go away if you make an immediate payment via a prepaid money card or wire transfer.

The IRS never asks for immediate payment over the phone

The IRS never asks for immediate payment over the phone

If you protest, then that’s when the threats start piling on. “You’ll go to jail,” “This will cost you thousands in legal fees,” “We’ll freeze your bank accounts,” “You’ll be deported…” The list goes on, and the tone of these scammers turns abusive fast. And while all of this seems like it should be pretty obvious that this is a hoax, the scammers do a few things that have thrown their victims for a loop:

  • They rig caller ID to show an IRS number
  • They can rattle off the last 4 digits of your SSN
  • They know some of your other contact info and will follow up with an email or more phone calls

Long story short, these IRS scammers are a real pain in the rear, but I’ve got a few tips that will keep you outsmarting them at every turn.

  1. The IRS almost never calls people about back taxes, they’d send you something in the mail.
  2. The IRS would never ask for immediate payment over the phone.
  3. The IRS would not call after normal office hours nor would they get abusive on the phone.
  4. Get yourself a caller ID service that offers spam score. Whitepages Current Caller ID shows an alert on your phone when an incoming call is suspected of spam.
  5. Perform a Reverse Phone Lookup if you feel something suspicious happening. Whitepages encourages its users to be a force in fighting spam. We have a field on every number’s page where you can leave a comment to report the number as spam.

Hopefully you won’t ever have to deal with one of these IRS scammers, but if you do, you’ll know how to handle them. And don’t forget to send the IRS a tip about them. File a complaint about an IRS scammer using the FTC Complaint Assistant.