Caller ID spoofing: What you should know

Callers can deliberately falsify the telephone number and/or name relayed as the Caller ID information on your phone to disguise the identity of the calling party.

Caller ID may be a service that is convenient to have as a part of your phone plan, but it is susceptible to fraud. Using a practice known as “caller ID spoofing,” callers can deliberately falsify the telephone number and/or name relayed as the caller ID information to disguise the identity of the calling party. For example, identity thieves who want to collect sensitive information such as your bank account or other financial account numbers, your social security number, your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name, sometimes use caller ID spoofing to make it appear as though they are calling from your bank, credit card company or even a government agency.

The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, which was signed into law Dec. 22, 2010, prohibits caller ID spoofing for the purposes of defrauding or otherwise causing harm. The Federal Communication Commission’s rules “prohibit any person or entity for transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.” Violators are subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the rules.

However, when I typed “caller ID spoofing” into the search engine of my computer, several sites came up that offered information about how to spoof calls – some even offered me a free trial of the service. Consumers still need to be watchful. Don’t give out personal information in response to an incoming call even if the caller ID shows a trusted source. If you get an inquiry from a company or government agency seeking personal information, don’t provide it. Instead, 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 find out if the entity that supposedly called you actually needs the requested information from you.

If you have caller ID and receive a call from a telemarketer without the required caller ID information, if 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 FCC. You can file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center using an online complaint form or by calling 1-888-225-5322.

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