For those of you who, like me, automatically think a ‘spoof’ is something funny, The Oxford English Dictionary assures us that it can also mean hoax. And there was nothing funny about this phone scam.

Peter Brooker, head of corporate affairs at PayPoint, alerted me to a new warning that Ofcom recently posted on its website that it calls ‘Spoofed by phone number scams’.

The Ofcom site, under its advice for consumers and businesses, says: “Many phone handsets now let you see the number of the person calling before you answer. This feature - known as ‘Caller ID’ or ‘Calling Line Identity’ - is a way of screening the calls you want to answer. However, there have been growing instances of nuisance callers and criminals deliberately changing the Caller ID, a practice known as ‘spoofing’.”

It adds that sometimes there’s a good reason for a caller to modify the Caller ID (for example, a caller who wishes to leave an 0800 number for you to call back if you want).However, with ‘spoofing’, callers deliberately change it. They do this to either hide their identity, or to try to mimic the number of a real company, or person who has nothing to do with the real caller. The latter is what happened to PayPoint retailers who recognised the number as PayPoint’s call centre and got conned. PayPoint subsequently lobbied Ofcom on this criminal practice.

“While an article on a website won’t stop it happening,” says Peter Brooker, “at least it shows the issue is climbing up the radar and confirms that the ‘Internet Engineering Task Force’, which helps to develop internet standards, is taking it seriously by creating a group specifically to tackle this issue.”