Spoofing and Caller ID

Caller ID “spoofing” occurs when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your Caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally.  U.S. law and FCC rules prohibit most types of spoofing.

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, even the government.

What you can 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.

Is spoofing illegal?

Under the Truth in Calling Act, FCC rules prohibit any person or entity 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.  Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.  In some cases, spoofing can be permitted by courts for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their information, such as law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic abuse or doctors who wish to discuss private medical matters.

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.

How do I report suspected spoofing?

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, DC 20554

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7 thoughts on “Spoofing and Caller ID”

  1. Iam always receiving calls from someone saying something like : this is the FBI or another government agency an if I don’t reply the next day a warrant will be issued for my arrest and it goes on given me a number to call back or they say they will call back.. One of my family members my son was involved in a wreak an he thought it was about him so he called the number back quite a few times. No one ever answered . after no luck he called me an not being home n knowing I called from my cell. Again no answer later that day I called it was busy. I went online only to learn it was a scam. I did a reverse search an the number came from some odds & ends thrift store. A man with a strong accent answered when I explained to him a call came from that store he told me it could not have. I put him on speaker my son said it was the same voice he heard .. Iam sure you have received many complaints about this. I’d like to make sure you have an ask if I should be concerned being we called back from two different lines. There was a number displayed I think we blocked it not sure. Is there any other way besides email of reporting these types of calls ? Bc now at least once a month iam getting them on my cell an I use my cell to pay bills some online but mainly over the phone. But I do have the goggle app with my info n card number stored on it…..
    I would also like to add we receive a lot of calls an when we answer a say hello 1-5 × s they hang up . what’s that about ?
    Also we get a lot of calls with all 00000000’s or something that’s spelled out.

  2. I got a call showing Chase (I have visa) and it was a recording saying to press a # to get zero rate on bal transfer. Id showed chase. I called the number –it was chase–used id program to give good number–but not trusting I called back and was told scam.

  3. we have received many calls from people saying that we called them. we did not will you please check into this

  4. This morning at 9am and again at 11:46 I received 2 phone calls…the caller ID showed my own phone number and name….the ID also said it was a “snooze” call….I did not answer these calls as they scared me and I didn’t want to be scammed or have my number being used by someone else other then me…Please help me to put a stop to this….

  5. This morning at 9am and again at 11:46 I received phone calls from my own phone number with my name on the caller ID….When I called my telephone provider they sent me this page to report this happening…I did not answer the phone either time…It also stated that this was a snooze call….If there is some way to stop this I would appreciate it…It scares me as I live alone…My phone provider stated that it was from scammers and it was smart for me not to answer them…I would like some help in preventing this from happening in the future, any and all help is appreciated…

  6. I get a call on my cell from my home number…I answer and it is someone from Microsoft saying my ip address will be terminated unless I provide detail information….I hang up. How did and can they hijack my home phone number?

  7. For the past month and a half I have received phone calls from people who say they missed my call. I stated I did not call their number and they insisted that I did. Then the past week and a half I have received phone calls from my own cell phone number. I reported it to the FCC and they told me to change my answering machine message to state that my phone has been spoofed and that they are to call the FCC at 888-225-5322. They also said if people insist that I called, to tell them my phone number has been spoofed and call the above number.

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