Spoof calls to police now target MP and journalist in escalation of harassment

Police called to homes of politician, journalist in spoof attack and bogus report of faulty electricity at MP’s home

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi addresses the crowd
Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi addresses the crowd

The police were called out to the homes of a senior MP and a high-profile journalist in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after receiving spoof calls impersonating their numbers and saying they were in distress.

The phone spoofing is an escalation of a harassment and misinformation campaign that previously saw the creation of a series of fake websites and e-mails.

Police stations received separate calls showing the numbers of Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi and the journalist, who asked not to be named, with a message saying they needed help.

Also at around the same time, both were also personally harassed with spoof calls claiming to be from numbers that they knew: one call spoofed the number of Matthew Caruana Galizia, the son of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia; another from Times of Malta journalist Matthew Xuereb.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, a Times of Malta landline received a spoof call which appeared to be Azzopardi’s number, with a pre-recorded message saying: “Stop writing about the spoofs. Stop writing about Yorgen Fenech. Stop writing about blogger Simon Mercieca… stop writing now.”

When Times of Malta tried to reverse the call, the number did not exist.

Jason Azzopardi has filed a complaint with the cybercrime unit, which is investigating the reports. “I’ve had a hell of a night. I was receiving calls from numbers that I recognised and then, when I picked up the phone, there were just funny sounds or folk music or pre-recorded messages,” Azzopardi said.

“At 2am, the police came because they had received calls from my number and [the journalist’s] saying we were in distress and needed help.”

Azzopardi said that electricity provider Enemalta had also received a call from the spoof number making a bogus report of faulty electricity in his property.

The calls are an escalation of spoof websites and e-mails attempting to sow doubt in the prosecution against Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

Azzopardi, blogger Manuel Delia, NGO Repubblika and news sites Newsbook, Net News, Lovin Malta and TVM were all targeted with fake e-mail chains and spoofed websites.