Phone spoofing is the practice of deliberately falsifying the telephone number or name relayed as the caller ID information to disguise the identity and origin of a call. Phone spoofing is often used by disreputable parties to swindle Tennesseans.
Scams that are traceable to phone spoofing have been on the rise since the proliferation of internet telephone technology. Most phone spoofing is done using a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service or IP phone that uses VoIP to transmit calls over the internet. VoIP service providers allow users to choose their preferred number or name to be displayed on the caller ID when they set up their account. Many VoIP providers also offer spoofing services that operate like a prepaid calling card. Users pay for a PIN code to use when calling their provider, allowing them to select both the destination number, as well as the number they want to appear on the recipient's caller ID.
Caller ID spoofing is illegal in the United States when intended or used in perpetrating crimes. The federal regulation. By federal regulation, it is unlawful to intentionally display false or inaccurate caller identification to harm, harass, or wrongfully a valuable item. Note that persons may still choose to block their numbers from displaying while placing calls. The regulation does not consider blocked-number calls as caller ID spoofing. No caller IDs are sent to the receiver in blocked number calls. Calls received from blocked numbers will show up as "unknown number" or "unknown."
Many of the frauds perpetrated by scammers through phone spoofing in Tennessee fall under one of the following categories:
Impersonation is the most common use of phone spoofing technology by scammers. By falsifying the caller ID information appearing on the receiver's end, scammers are able to imitate the caller ID information of reputable businesses or government agencies to fool targets into answering spoofed calls and believing whatever story they have to tell. One prevalent form of impersonation scam in Tennessee is the IRS scam where the caller poses as a staff of the IRS and claims the recipient owes back taxes which must be paid immediately. Since the call shows the caller ID of the IRS, many unsuspecting Tennesseans have been lured into sending money to fraudsters.
Some individuals use phone spoofing technology to make prank phone calls to residents in Tennessee. Some of these calls only contain verbal insults while others go as far as threatening residents with deaths or other forms of serious mayhem. Some prankish persons use phone spoofing technology to trick law enforcement agencies into believing a crime is in progress at a location only to disrupt the victims' work or rest. Many persons also use this technology to evade protection orders by harassing their spouses or victims.
Fraudulent telemarketers combine phone spoofing technology with robocalls to contact thousands of residents, thereby increasing the odds that many more people will fall victims to their shams at little to no extra cost to them. Robocalls allow users to deliver pre-recorded messages to a large audience with minimal human interaction. The robocall may be programmed to instruct recipients to press a number to speak with a live agent or to undertake a survey which will be tactfully used to gather sensitive information from victims. Such information will be later used in identity thefts. Call recipients who choose to speak to live agents may be offered bogus investment schemes with high ROIs or highly discounted products or services which are ultimately rip-offs.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
Why are you calling me? Who is this? Stop Calling me? What do you want from me? If you keep getting calls starting with such messages, your number has been spoofed. If you also get a lot of responses to messages you did not initiate, your number may have been spoofed by a fraudster. You should consider filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Scammers typically switch between multiple phone numbers in a day, so you should stop getting unsolicited responses within a few hours.
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
Callers sometimes have legitimate reasons to spoof caller ID information. For instance, medical personnel may spoof their numbers to display their office numbers so as not to reveal their personal phone numbers. Businesses that have toll-free numbers often spoof their numbers to display a toll-free one on their caller ID. Telemarketers that call on behalf of a company or have the spoofed number associated with the company within the call ecosystem, and that have the same number available for callback are permitted to spoof caller ID information.
However, the federal Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 prohibits anyone from transmitting inaccurate or misleading caller ID information with an intention to cause harm, defraud another person, or wrongly obtain any valuable item or information. Therefore, anyone who intends or uses caller ID spoofing to perpetrate crimes or fraud is liable to pay a fine of up to $10,000 per violation or $30,000 for each day of a continuing violation up to $1,000,000 for any single act or failure to act.
How Can You Identify and Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
Modern technologies used by scammers are not making it any easier for phone users to detect spoofed calls. Many phone scammers now place calls from long distances, even outside the United States to residents in Tennessee because internet telephony has made calls much cheaper than they once were. Tennesseans may take the following steps to identify and limit the number of spoofed calls getting to them, thereby reducing the odds of falling victims to phone scams resulting from spoofed calls.
- Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. If you unknowingly do, hang up as soon as you realize it's a spoofed call.
- Hang up on calls from numbers that seem like trusted businesses where callers are trying to obtain sensitive information that the businesses should have. Refrain from giving out sensitive information over the phone
- Hang up any call where the caller claims to represent a law enforcement agency but threatens an arrest if a certain fee is not paid.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and the recording or the caller asks you to press a button to stop getting calls, hang up immediately. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Download and install a call-blocking application to filter identified spoofed callers. Some phone service providers offer free call-blocking features. You may use such to block spoofed numbers.
- Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call List maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Report perceived spoof callers online to the FCC or FTC. You may also reach the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322 and the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222.
Does Tennessee Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
Taking effect on July 1, 2015, Tennessee SB0290, otherwise known as the Tennessee Truth in Caller ID Act, makes it a criminal offense, in connection with a telecommunications or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider, to knowingly cause any caller identification service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information to a subscriber with the intent to defraud or cause harm to another person or to wrongfully obtain anything of value.
SB0290 does not prohibit or restrict:
- A court order that specifically authorizes the use of caller identification manipulation
- Any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of the federal government any state government, or any local government
- Any authorized law enforcement activity
- Blocking the capability of a caller identification service to transmit caller identification information, provided it is done in a way that is allowed under present law in Tennessee. Present law forbids blocking caller identification when making a telephone solicitation to a residence.
Tennessee SB0290 authorizes the Tennessee Attorney General to bring an action against any person who violates the law. A first violation is considered a Class B misdemeanor, while any subsequent violation, if it occurs after a conviction for a prior violation, will be considered as a Class A misdemeanor. The Attorney General may seek a court order to stop further violations and recover a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. In addition to the civil penalty, the prevailing party is permitted to collect attorney's fees and expenses, although the attorney general will not be made to pay court costs.
In addition to Tennessee SB290, the 2009 Truth in Caller ID Act makes it unlawful for any person or entity to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value. Anyone who runs afoul of the Act is liable to pay between $10,000 and $1,000,000 in civil forfeiture.
To help combat illegal uses of phone spoofing and restore phone users' trust in caller ID information, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated all telecommunications service providers in the United States to implement the caller ID authentication system known as STIR/SHAKEN protocols latest by June 2021. Short for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN), STIR/SHAKEN strives to protect phone users against malicious caller ID spoofing by ensuring phone companies verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a call matches the caller's phone number. Widespread deployment of these protocols will reduce the effectiveness of illegal spoofing and allow law enforcement to identify con artists more easily.
What are Common Phone Scams involving Caller ID Spoofing in Tennessee?
The technology behind spoofing makes spoofed calls nearly untraceable. You cannot reach the criminal by calling the number back. Instead, you will only get through to the individual or business that actually owns the phone number. Worse still, it could even be an inactive number. Residents who have fallen victim to such nefarious acts may file complaints online with the FTC or call the FCC on 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322).
Common phone spoofing scams perpetrated in Tennessee include:
- IRS Scams
- Car Decal Scams
- Grandparent Scams
- Charity Scams
- Lottery/Prize Scams
- Government Grant Scams
- Gift Cards Scams
- Medicare Brace Scams
- Tech Support Scams
- Timeshare Scams
- Employment Scams
- Debt Collection Scams