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Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is coming from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government agency that you may already know and trust. If you answer, they use scam scripts to try to steal your money or valuable personal information, which can be used in fraudulent activity.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a spoofing scam, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

How does spoofing work?

Caller ID lets consumers avoid unwanted phone calls by displaying caller names and phone numbers, but the caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government.
What can you do if you think you’re 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.

  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, 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 voice mail 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 voice mail if you do not set a password.

What can you do if your number is being spoofed?

If you get calls from people saying your number is showing up on their caller ID, it’s likely that your number has been spoofed. We suggest first that you do not answer any calls from unknown numbers, but if you do, explain that your telephone number is being spoofed and that you did not actually make any calls. You can also place a message on your voicemail letting callers know that your number is being spoofed. Usually, scammers switch numbers frequently. It is likely that within hours they will no longer be using your number.

What is neighbor spoofing?

Robocallers use neighbor spoofing, which displays a phone number similar to your own on your caller ID, to increase the likelihood that you will answer the call. To help combat neighbor spoofing, the FCC is urging the phone industry to adopt a robust caller ID authentication system.

Is spoofing illegal?

Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules prohibit anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value. Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. However, spoofing is not always illegal. There are legitimate, legal uses for spoofing, like when a doctor calls a patient from her personal mobile phone and displays the office number rather than the personal phone number or a business displays its toll-free call-back number.

Is blocking a phone number the same thing as spoofing?

Spoofing is not the same thing as blocking a phone number. FCC rules require telephone companies to make phone number blocking available and free for all calls between states (each state makes its own rules about calls that stay within the state). If you receive a phone call from an “unknown number,” that phone number has been blocked, but not necessarily spoofed. Also, you can legally block the transmission of your phone number when you make calls, so your number will appear as “unknown.”

What are the FCC rules regarding caller ID for telemarketers?

FCC rules specifically require that a telemarketer:

  • Transmit or display its telephone number or the telephone number on whose behalf the call is being made, and, if possible, its name or the name of the company for which it is selling products or services.
  • Display a telephone number you can call during regular business hours to ask to no longer be called. This rule applies even to companies that already have an established business relationship with you.

For More Information:
Visit the FCC’s website at: fcc.gov/consumers/guides/spoofing-and-caller-id

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