Trace unknown numbers

Cape Town - Feeling harassed or threatened by calls from private or unknown numbers? A South African company believes it has the solution.

Intertel has made its call unmasking service available to the public and promises to unmask any private number - whether to cellphones, landlines, or even VoIP calls.

"We're a high-tech company that specialises in intelligence gathering, as opposed to PIs," Intertel's Director: Special Projects Brett Powell told News24.

The company's website claims that any call can be unmasked, regardless of what the caller has done to conceal their number. Powell said the service is legal.

Blackmail

"Our attorneys have had a look at what we do and we get consent from the client. Our system is passive - it doesn't use any extra network capacity and in every case we've done, it's been cases of criminal harassment.

"People are blackmailed, they feel embarrassed and they have no-one to turn to, and we can trace calls and location of the blackmailer."

Powell said that blackmail in SA was prevalent enough for them, at one stage, to build almost their entire business on resolving extortion cases.

He warned though, that the service was designed for use by those who feel threatened or harassed.

"Look, this service is not designed for the curious - or people who are dodging calls. It's for people who feel that they're being emotionally abused by these calls."

He said that they were able to trace the identity and location of unknown calls, but wouldn't divulge how exactly they were able to identify callers.

"There are some databases available publically that we use to trace and we're able to give that information to the police in assisting them in finding people. But we're straddling a fine line between legal and illegal because, you know, regulations may change," he added.

Risk

He said that they advise clients to open a police case but questioned whether there was strong motivation within Saps to pursue cases of harassment or blackmail.

"The police have the authority to do these investigations, but we're not sure whether they lack the motivation or the training, but certainly, we've encountered some very co-operative cops and some very reactionary guys," said Powell.

The cost for the service is not cheap, but Powell said that one is not obliged to pay in the hopes of getting a harassment call.

"You could have it installed and keep it on standby. Obviously, there's a cost to us, but we've helped some people free of charge," he said.

Powell said that while they have traditionally not advertised their services to the general public, they feel that they can provide a service to those who require it.

"There also a risk to us in making this public. Service Providers are going to ask us: 'How do you do it?' but it will have a huge impact on people phoning from private numbers," he added.

He said that even unsolicited calls from direct marketing companies were illegal and constituted harassment.

Unofficial channels


"It's completely illegal. You have the right to demand where they got your number. But there's no strong desire to follow these cases up.

"We're also able to trace VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) calls. If a call is placed using Skype, we can trace back the gateway number. We've built up a number of contacts at ISPs," he said.

When asked how they could achieve such tracing, he would only reply that they have "streamlined unofficial channels".

The call unmasking service costs R250 per day, and R750 per week.
 
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