The FCC says “spoofing” is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity.
Spoofing is usually used to trick someone into taking a sales call. Sometimes its used to phish for personal information.
U.S. law and FCC rules prohibit most spoofing.
Caller ID is a great feature. You can see who’s calling and decide whether or not to answer the call.
But the spoofers have figured out how manipulate caller ID and masquerade as others. Sometimes they try to look like banks, or insurance companies, or the government. Most common these days is trying to look like your neighbors or relatives, or even your own phone number.
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.
If no harm is intended or caused, spoofing is not illegal. It’s just annoying.
Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.
According to the FCC, courts sometime permit spoofing for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their information — law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic abuse, or doctors who want to talk about private medical matters.
So far, there’s no easy way to stop spoofers from calling your number.
But anyone who receives a spoof call can complain to the FCC here. It’s easy to do.
Those complaints might help the feds catch the spoofers and shut them down.
In August last year, the FCC hit a North Carolina telemarker with a proposed $82 million fine for making more than 21 million illegally spoofed robocalls.
The spoofer was Philip Roesel and his companies, Best Insurance Contracts and Wilmington Insurance Quotes.
The FCC said Roesel was allegedly using the phony caller ID information for calls to sell health insurance. He “especially targeted vulnerable consumers, including the elderly, the infirm, and low-income families,” the FCC said.
In June last year, the FCC proposed a $120 million fine against a Florida man who was spoofing caller IDs to sell timeshares.
Adrian Abramovich of Miami “apparently made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls” over a three-month period, the FCC said.
Abramovich allegedly used “neighbor spoofing” — fake caller IDs that match the area code and first three digits of the recipient’s phone number.
The FCC said it acted against Abramovich after receiving lots of complaints from people who received multiple calls daily.
The FCC and FTC are hosting an Expo Monday (April 23) in DC featuring technologies to block illegal robocalls. There’s more information here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.