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Predawn campaign robocalls traced to caller ID victim

CLEARWATER — Barbara Homer says she didn't do it — she didn't send 3 a.m. campaign robocalls on behalf of any politicians, have an affair with anyone's husband or offer a free solar energy audit over the phone, but she has been accused of all three.

The 53-year-old Clearwater resident's name and phone number have appeared on answering machines around the state since Oct. 7 because, she says, she has fallen victim to a "caller ID spoofer." She said someone stole her phone information to disguise the source of their phony solicitations.

"It put me through a week of hell," she said. "I was getting several hundred calls a day from people calling me back."

Caller ID spoofing is prohibited, according to the Federal Communications Commission and the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, and punishable by up to a $10,000 fine per violation.

Though Floridians have received fake recorded calls from Homer's phone number for weeks, the scam didn't garner much attention until Sunday. That's when dozens of people across at least five counties were awoken between 3 and 6 a.m. by a robocall from Homer's phone number, allegedly on behalf of Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters' re-election campaign.

Peters, who represents Pinellas County in Tallahassee, and her opponent, Democrat Scott Orsini, both denied any involvement in the sleep-disrupting calls, which actually ask for support sending Peters to Washington. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress earlier this year in a special election but has said she didn't recall using robocalls then.

On Oct. 11, Homer disconnected her home phone, which she used almost exclusively to fax paperwork for her job as an account manager.

For about a week, starting Oct. 7, her caller ID registered 70 calls every 90 minutes for 12 hours a day. She even got a message from a high school girlfriend she hadn't seen since 1978 who lives in Palm Beach and received one of the calls from Homer's number.

Homer said she has only answered two of the calls: The first was an enraged woman accusing Homer of sleeping with her husband (because her number showed up repeatedly on the couple's caller ID), and the second was from a kind Winter Haven man who said he too had been victimized by a spoofer.

She has now canceled her phone service, but said the spoofer is still using it to disturb people.

"I am an innocent participant here," she said.

Rep. Peters and her campaign manager fielded dozens of angry calls and emails Sunday from voters who received the false campaign robocall. She has contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the State Attorney's Office and the Federal Communications Commission, requesting an investigation into the spoofing scheme.

She wants whoever started this to face some consequences.

"Although I love a good mystery," Peters said. "I'm not a fan of this one."

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kemettler.

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