Have you ever received a call and the caller ID displayed your own phone number? Or perhaps you received the fake IRS call which displayed either the IRS or a 212 area code, the area code for Washington DC. If so, you witnessed firsthand caller ID spoofing.
Caller ID spoofing occurs when the information displayed in the caller ID has been deliberately falsified to disguise the true identity of the caller.
Unfortunately, spoofing is easier that you might think. There are numerous websites that offer caller ID spoofing services. Simply enter the phone number you wish to call, the information you want displayed in the caller ID and the service makes the call via the Internet. You might be asking yourself “How is this legal?” The Truth in Calling Act, FCC rules prohibit spoofing with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value. Spoofing is permitted in cases where the person or organization has a legitimate reason for hiding their information such as victims of domestic abuse or law enforcement agencies.
As a side note, if you think that I am providing a tutorial for criminals, think again. This information is readily available online. The greatest advantage that scammers have is your lack of knowledge. Without the knowledge of caller ID spoofing you would more than likely believe what was displayed. Knowledge is power in the fight against scammers.
Did you know that many voice mail services allow you to access your voice mail by simply calling from your phone number?
That means that someone could intentionally use caller ID to gain access to your voice mail. Your best defense is to create and use a password or PIN with your voice mail service. A password or PIN is something that a scammer would not know. This will greatly limit his ability to take over your voice mail account.
Tricks used by scammers
Scammers will use various tricks to get you to answer your telephone. These may include displaying:
A local area code
Your own telephone number
The name of a well-known organization (banks, creditors, insurance companies or the government)
Defend against spoofing
Here are a few tips to help you defend against caller ID spoofing.
Do not answer calls from unknown numbers.
Do not answer calls from your own number (make sure you voice mail is password protected).
Do not provide information to unsolicited calls such as your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name or bank account information.
If you receive a call from a company you do business with, call them back at the number on your statement or credit card or the company’s website.
Use caution if the caller becomes aggressive or threatening, a common sign of a scam.
When in doubt, hang up. You have no obligation to be polite to a scammer.
To report spoofing follow these instructions provided by the FCC’s website, consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/202654304-Spoofing-and-Caller-ID.
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 with the FCC. You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:
File a complaint online
By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
By 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, D.C. 20554.