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If you have a landline or a cell phone, you have most likely experienced an increase in the number of local phone calls you’re receiving, but when you answer the phone, it’s an automated telemarketing campaign or an obvious, or not so obvious, scam call. You are not alone. Caller ID spoofing is used every day by scammers and telemarketers in an effort to get you to answer the phone.

What is Caller ID Spoofing?

Caller ID spoofing is a technology that allows a caller to display a number other than the actual number from which a call is placed. With this technology, the caller can send and receive calls and texts that appear to be from any phone number that they choose.

While there are legitimate uses and benefits to using this technology, scammers are using it to steal money and personal identities over the phone. In order for their phone scams to work, scammers need their targets to answer the phone. In recent years, scammers have started using “neighbor spoofing” to match the first six digits of their intended call recipient’s own number to make them think the phone call is coming from a local business or even a friend or family member. They know that their call recipient is much more likely to answer the phone if the call is local, increasing their chances that their scam will be successful.

Is Caller ID Spoofing Illegal?

Technically, caller ID spoofing is not illegal. Under the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID Act, so long as a person or business entity is not using caller ID spoofing with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value, it is perfectly legal. Unfortunately, a person using caller ID spoofing for less than legitimate purposes knows that what they are doing is illegal and will continue to do it anyway.

How Does Caller ID Spoofing Work?

There are many internet-based services that offer caller ID spoofing. A caller provides the phone number they’d like to call along with the phone number they would like shown on the recipient’s caller ID. The call is then sent through a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service, where the outbound caller ID is changed, and the caller is connected to their desired recipient’s phone number.

Protecting Yourself.

While the Federal Trade Commission has done what they can to try and ensure that spoofing services are not being used to defraud consumers, there are precautions you should take to protect yourself from potential scams:

  • Keep in mind that caller ID spoofing allows a caller to use actual phone numbers of individuals and businesses. This means a scammer can make it appear as if the call is coming from your doctor, insurance company, or financial institution. If you receive a call from a number that you recognize, but are uncertain of the caller’s authenticity, there is nothing wrong with hanging up and calling the number back to ensure it is not a scam.
  • Do not give personal, financial, or credit card information over the phone unless you have initiated the call.
  • Consider using a call blocking app to decrease the number of spam calls you are receiving or ask your phone carrier if they offer a similar service.
  • Lastly, do not answer calls from unfamiliar phone numbers, even if it appears to be a local call. By answering the phone, you’re alerting the caller that the number they are dialing is a real phone number, putting you at risk of receiving even more calls in the future. If the caller is legitimate, they will leave a message.

You can also add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. While it is unlikely to prevent scam calls, it may help to reduce the number of legitimate calls you receive from telemarketers, making it easier to screen for scammers. If you suspect a call you received was fraudulent, you can file a complaint with the FCC online at www.consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.

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