Phone spoofing or Caller ID spoofing is when callers deliberately falsify information transmitted to the receiver’s caller ID to disguise their identities. Such callers use software that displays a number on the consumer’s caller ID that is different from that of the actual call origination point. Caller ID spoofing has several legitimate applications, such as call centers that place legitimate calls on behalf of multiple organizations. However, scammers have adopted caller spoofing for their purposes because of the anonymity it affords and the ability to impersonate legitimate organizations more convincingly. Scammers can configure their systems to display any number they want to appear as their caller ID, rather than the number in the database registry.
Phone or Caller ID spoofing is illegal in the United States when used to perpetrate crime and fraud, under the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. This law makes it a crime, punishable by fines and jail time, to intentionally display false caller identification to commit fraud and other crimes. The law exempts specific law enforcement purposes and allows callers to remain anonymous and not transmit any caller information. Phone spoofing has led to increased reported phone scams, and the proliferation of internet-based telephony services such as VoIP has helped push this. Scammers can use caller ID spoofing techniques to convince residents that they are receiving calls from organizations they already know and trust.
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 makes the use of phone spoofing for fraudulent activities illegal in the United States. Deliberately falsifying caller ID information to commit crimes or fraud is punishable by fines, though some states have included jail time in their provisions. The Act exempts law enforcement uses in specific situations. Callers are also allowed to refrain from transmitting any caller information and remain anonymous.
Caller ID or Phone spoofing is being used by scammers to anonymously contact their targets and fraudulently obtain money and sensitive information. Scammers typically spoof their targets’ caller IDs to display caller information of banks, law enforcement, and government agencies, making it easier to run their scams. Residents are more likely to respond to extraordinary requests and demands for personal information and money if they believe they are speaking to reputable organizations.
How Do You Know if Your Number is Being Spoofed?
If you receive multiple calls and text messages from random people responding to communication you did not initiate, your phone number has likely been spoofed. These could be in the form of text messages asking who you are or phone calls asking you to leave them alone. If this happens, and you never contacted them, then it is most likely scammers have used your caller ID for fraudulent activity. Residents who have had their caller ID used in such a manner should call the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322 or file online complaints. It is essential to do this to avoid being associated with these scams. Depending on how far gone the situation is, you might need to change your phone number.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
It is difficult to track down the scammers behind spoofed phone calls because of the ability to impersonate real phone numbers. However, there are precautions one can take to protect oneself against scam calls with spoofed caller IDs, and these include:
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry and Massachusetts Do Not Call List. Phone numbers effectively registered on these lists are legally exempted from receiving calls from companies that typically use spoofed phone numbers.
- Be suspicious of calls from organizations such as banks and government agencies, soliciting sensitive information they already have. Legitimate organizations will never ask for personal information on phone calls you did not initiate.
- Disregard and hang up on calls from law enforcement agencies that ask you for money to avoid arrests and other punitive actions.
- Use phone number lookup tools available from operators, manufacturers, and third parties to identify and block spoofed phone calls. The tools block phone numbers identified by the users and can also identify robocalls and spam calls.
- File online reports on phone spoofing scams with the FTC or call 1 (888) 382-1222.
Does Massachusetts Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
The Massachusetts Act Clarifying Telephone Solicitation provides clarifications on terms associated with telephone solicitations. It defines terms such as mobile telephone, robocalls, and creates a robust legal framework to prevent solicitors from finding exploitable loopholes. The Act also gives the Commonwealth the right to charge and fine solicitors that break the rules. It imposes a $10,000 fine for solicitors that knowingly violate the law and establishes the rights of the individuals to sue the solicitors for at least $10,000 for each violation.
The federal law that regulates caller ID spoofing is the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. It makes it “illegal to cause any caller ID service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID info with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.” The statute provides exceptions for specific law enforcement situations, and callers are allowed to remain anonymous by blocking their outgoing caller information. Persons who violate this law are liable to forfeiture penalties and criminal fines up to $10,000 per violation, not exceeding $1,000,000 for any single act.
What are Common Phone Scams involving Caller ID Spoofing in Massachusetts?
Scammers are increasingly using caller ID spoofing techniques to target unsuspecting residents. The ability to disguise their real phone numbers coupled with the fact they can imitate any phone number they choose is too good to ignore. Scammers can make the targets’ caller ID display caller information of an organization the mark is used to dealing with and trusts. This makes it far easier for the fraudsters to pull off the scams and disappear before the victims get wise. Report phone spoofing scams to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) online. Residents can also file reports on phone spoofing scams with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1 (888) 382-1222. Some common phone spoofing scams in Massachusetts include:
- Law enforcement impersonation scams
- Government grant scams
- Banking/Finance Scams
- Utility Scams
- Charity Scams
- Medicare Scams
- Telemarketing Scams
- IRS Scams