Phone spoofing is when a caller purposefully falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. It is often used as part of a deliberate attempt to mislead someone into divulging valuable personal information so that it can be used for illegal or fraudulent activities. Phone spoofing may also be legitimately used to display toll-free numbers for businesses. United States’ laws and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules prohibit caller ID spoofing if the intention is to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
Historically, spoofing required an elaborate knowledge of telephony equipment and could be quite expensive. Today, spoofing is now available to amateurs due to the availability of open source tools. The cost and the effort required have been greatly reduced; thereby resulting in a significant rise in the illegitimate uses of phone spoofing.
Many of the fraudulent acts committed using phone spoofing in Wisconsin qualify as one or of the following phone scams:
Here, fraudsters spoof their caller IDs to falsely show up as those of their targets’ friends, neighbors, and loved ones as well as of reputable and known organizations. A common example of this occurs during an IRS scam. Scammers spoof caller IDs and make their numbers appear to their targets as those of the IRS. In this way, they impersonate IRS employees and threaten deportation or arrest while claiming to collect owed taxes. Some scammers also use caller ID spoofing to impersonate representatives of banks and insurance companies in order to obtain sensitive information such as passwords, credit or debit card details, and online banking credentials.
Pranksters use spoofing technology to hoodwink victims into believing that their calls are coming from people they trust such as close friends, relatives, and neighbors. Once the victim answers the call, the caller carries out a pre-meditated mischievous act ranging from verbal insults to more dangerous acts like death threats. The prankster may also disrupt a victim's business or work schedule by swatting them which requires sending a police tactical team to the victim's house.
Telemarketing scams typically involve the use of robocalls to trick victims into answering their calls. A typical call invites the victim to answer some survey questions or call a particular live agent. The survey question is designed by the fraudster to deceive the call recipient into giving away sensitive information. If the recipient chooses to call back, the live agent who is also the scammer presents attractive offers such as investment schemes or phony products in an attempt to swindle the target. Wisconsin residents who have been targeted by telemarketing scams due to call spoofing may file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
Your number is being spoofed if your line is flooded with calls or text responses to conversations you did not initiate. If this happens, it is highly likely that fraudulent persons have spoofed your contact and stolen your identity for use in illegitimate activities. To avoid possible consequences of such activities, contact the FCC on 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322) or file a complaint with the Commission online.
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
In accordance with the Truth in Caller ID Act, the Federal Communications Commission prohibits anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or deceitfully obtain any valuable item. Spoofing caller IDs is not considered illegal if no harm is intended or caused. In certain scenarios, courts permit the use of spoofing for persons with legitimate reasons to hide caller ID information, such as law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic abuse, and medical doctors placing work calls from their homes.
For telemarketers, the FCC specifically requires that they transmit or display their telephone numbers and, where possible, their names, names of their companies, and the products or services they are peddling. The FCC also requires that telemarketers display phone numbers that residents may call during regular business hours to ask to no longer be contacted. This specific rule applies even to companies that already established business relationships with you.
How Can You Identify and Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
It is getting easier to spoof caller IDs and harder to identify the persons behind scam calls. However, Wisconsin residents may take the following steps to protect themselves against spoofed calls:
- Hang up any call where the caller tries to coerce you into making an urgent payment in exchange for not blocking your license or not arresting you.
- Hang up any call if the caller asks for sensitive personal information such as banking details or passwords.
- Install a call-blocking application on your phone that will help block unsolicited calls from scammers and spoofed calls.
- Residents may register on the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. Numbers registered on this list are usually avoided by legitimate businesses. Therefore, if after registering you still receive a spoofed robocall, it is likely to have originated from a scammer.
- Report spoofed calls online to the FTC and the FCC. You may also reach the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222 and the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322.
Does Wisconsin Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
Wisconsin SB132 prohibits caller ID spoofing. Under the bill, no person may knowingly transmit inaccurate or misleading caller ID with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. The bill also places a restriction on telephone solicitors from deliberately spoofing caller IDs for any purpose unless they state their clients’ names and customer service numbers. This Wisconsin bill also authorizes telecommunications providers to stop calls from reaching called parties if the originating numbers are not valid, not allocated to a provider or are confirmed to be unused by the providers.
This Wisconsin bill is remarkably similar to the federal anti-spoofing law in the United States, referred to as the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. The federal law prohibits caller ID spoofing where the caller intends to cause harm or defraud anyone. Violations of the law may lead to civil forfeitures ranging from $10,000 to $1,000,000.
In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has directed all voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited (STIR) and Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN)) protocols before June 2021. STIR/SHAKEN uses digital certificates, based on common public key cryptography techniques to ensure that calls are secure. The service providers of the caller and the called party obtain digital certificates from a trusted certificate authority. This enables the called party to verify that the caller ID is legitimate and has not been spoofed
What are Common Phone Scams involving Caller ID Spoofing in Wisconsin?
Scammers use phone spoofing to get Wisconsin residents to answer their calls. They can achieve this by falsifying their caller identities and assuming the caller IDs of reputable persons and agencies. If you have fallen victim to caller ID spoofing scams, file a complaint online with the FCC.
The most common phone spoofing scams experienced by residents of Wisconsin include:
- IRS scams
- Telemarketing scams
- Lottery scams
- Medicare scams
- Charity scams
- Utility bill scams
- Insurance scams
- Elderly scams
- Banking scams