Caller ID Spoofing
Caller faking phone numbers for spam phone calls
by Dawn Ballou, Editor, LibbyMT.com
August 27, 2014
Earlier this week we received an angry phone call from a woman who said she was tired of receiving phone calls two or three times a day from "Libby" and what she claimed was our business phone number. The calls were spam for credit card offers and other things. She insisted we stop calling her.
The problem for both of us is that we arenít the ones calling her.
Most everyone gets these kinds of recorded and live sales pitches every day. The puzzling part of this one is that the called insisted our phone number and business name were what was displayed in the Caller ID.
Since we arenít making these calls, we want to make our readers aware that there are companies and devices that allow people to mask or change their Caller ID number that comes up on the recipientís phone display. Itís called "Caller ID Spoofing," and can have serious consequences for anyone not aware this is possible and is tricked into giving out personal information over the phone to a scammer.
Spoofing the Caller ID number is not illegal in the United States, except for in cases where fraud occurs. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit telemarketers from blocking Caller ID information and require them to pass accurate caller ID numbers. However, for calls done for pranks, amusement, or revenge, it is perfectly legal to alter the Caller ID number.
A quick Google search will reveal a host of companies that offer special phone cards to do this service with them, for a fee. Their websites explaining the service give a number of flimsy, but plausible, excuses why someone might want to hide their real phone number: to get their teenager to answer the phone from their parent; professionals wanting to call patients but donít want their real cell phone number to get out; pranksters wanting to pull one over on a friend; law enforcement uses. The process is as easy as punching in three phone numbers: your own number, the number you wish to call, and the number you want to show up on the phone Caller ID display when the call is made. Any 10 digit number can be used. Not only will the number show up, but also the name registered for that number would automatically appear. Voices can be altered to male or female during the call. Spoofcards can be purchased online and are relatively cheap for 60 minutes and up to 8-hours worth of spoof calling time for under $100. For those using voice over IP, faking Caller ID is as easy as editing a configuration file on the computer.
There may be some people who need this service for legitimate purposes, but clearly this technology is being used be crooks wanting to mask unsolicited sales calls and get around the Do Not Call legislation and the fines for unsolicited sales calls.
Unsuspecting victims who rely on the Caller ID number to screen their calls will answer a recognized number and potentially fall for the pitch of a slick salesperson or con artist to give out confidential information. More sinister uses include stalking and a whole host of identify theft purposes.
A big concern is people being tricked by calls appearing to come from their bank, credit card company or a government agency and persuading victims to give up their personal identity and financial information that a thief can use to empty their bank account, open a new account, apply for loans or obtain credit cards. Imagine a phone call with the Caller ID showing up as your local bank or credit union in Libby and the representative says they are verifying account information and just need you to answer a few quick questions (social security number, motherís maiden name, account pin numberÖ) Minutes later your account is cleaned out.
An online article on the topic of Caller ID spoofing tells of another variation where a victim receives a phone call claiming they missed jury duty and asks for their Social Security number. The call seems legitimate because the Caller ID displays the number for the local courthouse.
Imagine a call coming in appearing to be from the Lincoln County Sheriffís Office and a kind "detective" claiming to be working on a fraud protection incident theyíve uncovered with you as the possible target and they just want to verify your social security number and bank accounts "for your protection"Ö
At the federal level, the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 offers some protections for traditional telephone and voice over internet protocol (VOIP), but does make exceptions for use for certain law-enforcement purposes. Callers are also still allowed to preserve their anonymity by choosing to block all outgoing caller ID information on their phone lines. A number of states have also begun to pass their own laws under deceptive trade practices and consumer fraud acts. These laws still only prohibit Caller ID spoofing for fraud purposes. Uses by individuals for amusement or revenge is still legal.
If you have caller ID and receive a call from a telemarketer without the required caller ID information, and you suspect that 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 Federal Communications Commission (FCC). You can file your complaint electronically using the on-line complaint Form 1088 found on the FCC Web site at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html. You can also file your complaint by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
How to protect yourself:
1. Never give out personal information such as your Social Security Number, driverís license number, credit card account information or bank account information over the phone. Banks, credit card companies and government offices typically do not call over the phone to confirm this information. They do this via mail.
2. If you think the call is legitimate, call the organization back yourself using a phone number you obtain from an independent source you get yourself. Donít use the number they give you as their contact number, ask that could reroute you to an accomplice in the scheme. Look the phone number up in the phone book or get it off your official paperwork from that company and call back to verify the person and request for your confidential information.
3. Report suspicious phone calls to local law enforcement and any local organization that appears to have their number being used for fraudulent purposes. While there is little that law enforcement and the individual business can do to stop the calls, they can at least alert citizens and customers that the scam is happening and to be wary of suspicious phone calls.
For those wanting to research more on this topic, the following keywords provide links to a lot of good articles and reports: Caller-ID spoofing, Caller-ID Fraud, Caller-ID masking, Identity Spoofing, Anti-Spoofing Legislation, Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009.