What to Know About Caller ID Spoofing
By its literal definition, to spoof is to:
- Imitate something while exaggerating characteristic features for comic effect
- Hoax or trick someone
“Spoofing” occurs when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally. The number could appear to be a government agency or a legitimate business. Or the number could look so much like yours that you think the call or text is from a friend or neighbor. It might even be your own number that appears to be calling you. U.S.law and FCC rules prohibit most types of spoofing.
What you can do if you think you are being spoofed?
You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information.
For phone calls:
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, credit/debit card numbers, debit/credit card security codes, credit/debit card expiration dates, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voicemail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it.
- Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number.
- A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password.
For text messages:
- Never click on embedded links in unsolicited text messages from unknown numbers.
- Do not direct dial any phone numbers listed in unsolicited text messages from unknown numbers.
Is spoofing illegal?
Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information
with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value. If no harm is intended or caused, spoofing is not illegal. Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. In some cases, spoofing can be permitted by courts for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their information, such as law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic abuse or doctors who wish to discuss private medical matters.
How to report a spoofing?
If you receive a call and you suspect caller ID information has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint “here” or you have several options for filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission:
- Online – https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov
- Phone – 1.800.CALL.FCC (1.888) 225.5322; TTY: 1.888.TELL.FCC (1.888) 835.5322; and/or ASL: (1.844) 432.2275
- Mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554