PI Phone Enters Specialized Telecom Market with Caller ID Spoofing Service

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PI Phone provides caller ID spoofing and other telecom services to licensed private investigators and law enforcement agencies. Unlike competitors, PI Phone has taken steps to ensure that the service is used responsibly.

New York-based Mattison & Rosenthal Inc is offering caller ID spoofing service, called PI Phone, to private investigators and law enforcement. Caller ID spoofing is used in investigations and fugitive recovery. The service allows an investigator to make calls under false pretense in order to elicit specific information from a subject.

Caller ID spoofing emerged in 2003 and is being marketed as a niche service for private investigators and law enforcement. Private investigators most commonly use the service for what is known in the business as “pretext calling.” A pretext call is one in which information is solicited over the phone by an investigator calling under a deceptive pretense.

Concerns have been raised about the legality of caller ID spoofing and pretext calling. However, FCC spokeswoman June Taylor recently commented that caller ID spoofing services are not illegal. Additionally, Joel Winston, Associate Director of the FTC Division of Financial Practices, in an interview with PI Magazine, said “the PI industry as a whole is not an area about which we have any particular concerns.” The focus of the interview was pretext calling in the context of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Some are apprehensive regarding the use of caller ID spoofing in identity theft. PI Phone, unlike competitors, has elected to make its service available exclusively to licensed private investigators and law enforcement in an effort to eliminate the possibility of abuse.

Tim Mattison and Ben Rosenthal, both of whom graduated from the University at Albany, founded Mattison & Rosenthal Consulting Inc in January 2004. Mattison earned a B.S. in Computer Science in 2000 and worked for three years for a company that makes video encoding firmware for satellite television hardware. Rosenthal graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in Information Science and Policy. The company is privately held.

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