The act of deliberately concealing a person’s actual Caller ID and using a Caller ID that the call recipient is familiar with is referred to as phone spoofing. Phone spoofing involves falsifying the Caller ID information that is displayed on the recipient’s phone. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology supports phone spoofing, allowing users to disguise their Caller ID. Other mobile applications and software programs also provide spoofing services where users can spoof their Caller IDs.
The United States allows Caller ID spoofing for legitimate reasons. However, when used to carry out criminal activities that involve scamming a person, it is considered illegal. Some scammers use phone spoofing to impersonate legitimate organizations or government agencies such as the Police Department or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This form of spoofing is illegal, according to the United States’ Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. The Act regulates caller ID spoofing and considers caller ID spoofing with intent to steal money or personal information illegal. Illegal phone spoofing attracts a cash fine or a jail sentence, depending on the state.
Certain entities can conceal their Caller IDs for legitimate reasons, such as law enforcement officers spoofing their Caller IDs to facilitate investigations or hide their telephone numbers from crime suspects. Medical practitioners spoofing their telephone numbers to display their hospitals’ Caller ID when calling patients from their homes is also permitted. Some illegal Caller ID spoofing includes:
Telemarketing scams involve scammers concealing their actual Caller IDs and targeting individuals with spoofed robocalls. Some of these telemarketing scammers impersonate representatives of reputable telemarketing organizations. With telemarketing robocalls, the targets are instructed to press certain numbers to connect with “supposed trusted live agents.” When the targets connect with the “supposed trusted live agents,” the scammers will attempt to persuade them to purchase nonexistent or fake goods and services.
Here, scammers conceal their Caller IDs to take on the identities of government agencies or legitimate organizations’ employees to deceive individuals and cause them to divulge their financial information or pay certain amounts of money. An example of an impersonation scam is a case where a scammer impersonates an employee of a recognized financial institution that the target does business with and demands the target’s credit card details or other financial information. The impersonator may claim to need the requested information for an account upgrade. These scams are quite prevalent in the United States and are usually components of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scams.
Caller ID spoofing is often used to carry out pranks on individuals. These pranks sometimes go out of control and lead to harassment, financial ruin, bodily harm, and identity theft. During these pranks, the pranksters may spoof their numbers to display numbers of emergency services like the police, fire and rescue services, etc. After spoofing their numbers, these pranksters may call in bomb or fire threats to their target’s homes or workplaces.
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal in Oklahoma?
Scammers mostly take advantage of phone spoofing and use it to accomplish their criminal schemes. They convince individuals to provide personal or financial information that enables them to commit credit card/bank fraud or other forms of identity theft.
The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 was amended to include new federal legislation rules passed in 2018. These rules make spoofing from international call centers and text messages illegal. Generally, the law prohibits Caller ID spoofing perpetrated with intent to defraud or cause any form of harassment or harm to individuals. Scammers working in call centers that are overseas sometimes impersonate trusted organizations and use pressure tactics to deceive Oklahomans and defraud them of their money and personal information. Caller ID spoofing is used during phone scams to make the scammers' phone numbers appear to match the organizations they are pretending to represent.
Criminals also exploit phone spoofing by continuously spoofing their caller IDs to make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to arrest them. Individuals that engage in illegal spoofing will be punished with a fine penalty or a jail term, depending on the crime and the gravity of the offense committed. Authorized law enforcement agents can use Caller ID spoofing for legal purposes, although call recipients are permitted to stay anonymous and not reveal any personal information.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
Phone spoofing involves a person placing calls with a Caller ID that belongs to another person, in which case the person whose Caller ID is being used may not even be aware. However, the person may begin to receive many random calls or text messages from unknown numbers, in continuation to discussions that the person did not initiate. In some cases, the person may receive calls where the caller warns the person never to call them again. An indication of spoofing could also be the person receiving calls where callers request information about goods or services that the individual is oblivious of. These signs of a person’s number being spoofed should be promptly reported to avoid being wrongfully accused of any scams linked to their number, as it is most likely being used to perpetrate scams. Report suspected spoofing cases to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by filing a complaint or calling 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322). Persons that suspect that their numbers are being spoofed can also record a voicemail, informing callers about this.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
Identifying a spoofed call may be somewhat difficult, as a spoofed call usually appears to be from a known phone number. However, Oklahomans can protect themselves from spoofed calls and avoid falling victim to the schemes of fraudsters by following these steps:
- Hang up the call if a caller claiming to be from a local law enforcement agency tries to extort money and gives arrest threats if the recipient refuses to comply.
- Hang up and do not follow directives given during the call if a caller claiming to be a representative of a legitimate organization or government agency asks for personal or financial information that they should already have if they are who they claim to be.
- Use installed phone number lookup to search suspected spoofed numbers, and if no result is found, it is an indication that the number may be spoofed. Also, use call-blocking mobile apps to block numbers linked to spoofed calls.
- Register your number on Oklahoma Do Not Call List online by completing the Telemarketer Restriction Act Registration Form or placing a call to (405) 521-3921. You can also add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce unsolicited calls.
- File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or the Federal Trade Commission if you suspect any illegal Caller ID spoofing case. You can also call the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222 or the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322 to report these cases.
Does Oklahoma Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
Oklahoma Anti-Caller ID Spoofing Law, Senate Bill 712, was initiated by Senator James A. Williamson. It was approved by the Senate and became effective May 7, 2007. According to the law’s initiator, Caller ID spoofing was being used to trick people into divulging personal information, which is then used for identity theft and other crimes; hence, the law makes Caller ID spoofing a misdemeanor offense. This offense is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
In 2009, Congress amended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to include the Truth in Caller ID Act. Consequent to this, individuals are prohibited from falsifying Caller ID with the aim of defrauding, causing harm, and stealing valuables, including information. The violation of this law attracts a penalty of between $10,000 and $1,000,000. The Act permits Caller ID spoofing for legitimate purposes where the caller is authorized to conceal their identity. Examples of legitimate uses of Caller ID spoofing include law enforcement agencies investigating a case or domestic abuse victims or doctors who wish to discuss sensitive medical matters.
Following the FCC directive, from June 2021, all voice service providers must make caller ID authentication available on their networks using the STIR/SHAKEN protocols. The protocols verify caller identification information from where the call originates from before it finally reaches the receiver.
What Are Common Phone Scams Involving Caller ID Spoofing in Oklahoma?
Scam artists often illegally spoof their Caller IDs to defraud and mislead their targets by impersonating reputable organizations and government agencies to accomplish their schemes. Common phone spoofing scams prominent in Oklahoma include:
- Elderly scams
- Charity and religious organization scams
- Lottery scams
- Medicare insurance scams
- Bank scams
- IRS scams
- Telemarketing scams