Spoofing, otherwise known as caller ID spoofing, disguises an individual's true name or number. Scammers and robocallers use spoofing technology to modify what name or phone numbers appear on caller ID, thereby impersonating phone numbers from friends, neighbors, government agencies, or a local business in a bid to try to get you to answer the calls. In many instances, it is a random number with the same area code and first three digits as your own phone number. In other cases, the numbers display as originating from a local business or person with whom you are familiar
Although the introduction of caller ID was a means to reduce nuisance calls, it has since become a way for spoofers to make them. With the internet becoming more widely available, callers are now able to make telephone calls through their computers using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP affords users to make phone calls en masse for little cost. Many VoIP service providers allow users to change the number a call appears to be coming from. The chosen number could be someone else's landline number, a reputable company's, or your bank's. Using a recognized number greatly increases the odds that a target will answer a scammer's call.
While not all spoofed calls are illegal, the United States through the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, condemns voice or caller ID spoofing when done with an intention to commit fraud or perpetrate crimes. Caller ID spoofing used to harass or obtain anything of value is prohibited and can lead to civil forfeitures or jail time for violators.
Some of the common phone spoofing scams in Iowa include:
After using spoofing technology to mimic a phone number that their targets will trust, many con artists use robocalls to deliver prerecorded messages to recipients. Answering a phone call with a spoofed caller ID will indicate to the scammer that you have an active phone line. Active phone lines are valuable to these crooked individuals who will likely put you on what is known as a "sucker list", potentially opening your phone line up to more scam calls. The caller will then try to sell fake products and services to steal money or valuable information from you.
Harassment and Intimidation
Phone spoofing allows anyone to manipulate your display to hide their identity and pretend to be someone else. Hence ill-intentioned persons may use it to place harassing phone calls to their targets or trick them into viewing or accepting abusive communication from their abusers.
Impersonation scams are quite common with caller ID spoofers. When scammers cause the telephone network to indicate to the receiver that an incoming call originates from a trusted source, it is usually with the intention to sound and appear like they are a representative of the agency, business, or the individual whose identity is on the recipient's caller ID display. After tricking the recipient into trusting their identity, they move on to defrauding their targets or obtaining sensitive information from them. Many scammers often pose as law enforcement officers and threaten arrest or revoking licenses to extort money from unwitting Iowans.
Why Is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
The federal Truth in Caller ID Act prohibits any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value from Americans. Hence, if no harm is caused or intended, spoofing is not illegal in Iowa. Spoofing is useful and legal in certain cases, such as permitted by courts for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their information, like law enforcement agencies working on cases, and victims of domestic abuse or doctors who intend to discuss private medical matters. Anyone who illegally spoofs a phone number can face fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
"What do you want from me?" "Why did you call me?" "Who is this?" "Stop calling me!!" If you are being inundated with messages like this from people you never contacted, odds are that someone might be spoofing your phone number. Generally, if your phone number gets flooded with calls or SMS responding to communications you did not initiate, it may be time to consider that your phone number has been spoofed. You should record a new voicemail message to distance yourself from an illicit act and advise people calling you to avoid engaging with scammers spoofing your line. You can also file a complaint online with the Federal Communications Commission.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
Scammers will stop at nothing to get their targets to answer phone calls. With spoofing technology, they can pull off a wide range of scams designed to steal personal information or money. Therefore, Iowans need to be cautious of these unsolicited and annoying spoofed calls. To identify and protect yourself against illegal spoofed calls, follow the steps listed below:
- Never give out account numbers, passwords, mother's maiden names, Social Security Numbers, or other identifying information to anyone over the phone.
- Research. If someone calls you and claims to represent a company or government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Proceed cautiously if you are being pressured for information immediately. That is a sure sign of a scam.
- Report unwanted calls to the Federal Trade Commission, or call 1-888-382-1222.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Avoid answering phone calls from numbers you do not recognize, even if they appear local.
- Download and install a phone number lookup application that can help block any unidentified numbers and identified spam numbers. Your phone carrier may also provide a similar service.
Does Iowa Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
Iowa Senate File 2243 prohibits the use of false or misleading caller identification and makes penalties applicable. Under this Act, Iowa considers it an unlawful practice for a person to knowingly use or provide false or misleading caller identification information to an Iowa telephone subscriber who is physically located in the state. However, the Act does not apply to:
- Conduct authorized by a law enforcement agency of the United States, a state, or a political subdivision of a state
- Conduct authorized pursuant to a court order
- Conduct authorized under federal law
A violation of Senate File 2243 constitutes an unlawful practice under Iowa's consumer fraud law. The law authorizes the Iowa attorney general to investigate and take civil action in court to stop any unlawful action. In addition, a civil penalty of up to $40,000 per violation may be imposed by a court against anyone found to have committed such unlawful practice.
Besides Iowa Senate File 2243, the 2009 Truth in Caller ID Act makes it unlawful for any person in America, in conjunction with any VoIP or telecommunications service provider, to deliberately make a caller identification service transmit misleading or false caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtaining a thing of value. Anyone who runs afoul of the Act runs the risk of losing between $10,000 and $1,000,000 in civil forfeiture.
The FCC has also directed all originating and terminating voice providers in the United States to implement the STIR/SHAKEN framework latest June 2021. STIR/SHAKEN framework, short for Secure Telephony Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN), is a caller ID authentication and verification measure. It is purposed to help phone users certify the extent to which a given caller's identity can be trusted. This will help Iowans to determine which calls are authenticated, thereby reducing the frequency and impact of caller ID spoofing on residents.
What are Common Phone Scams involving Caller ID Spoofing in Iowa?
Criminals who spoof their caller ID will try every trick in the book to convince you of their false identity and story. Others may spoof your caller ID to increase the likelihood that you will answer the call. Calls may originate from individuals or robocalling devices using automatic dialing-announcing devices (ADAD). ADAs are used to disseminate prerecorded or synthesized voice messages to telephone numbers. Here are some common phone scams perpetrated using caller ID spoofing in Iowa:
- IRS Scams
- Government Agency Scams
- Tech Support Scams
- Grandparent Scams
- Identification Theft Scams
- Sales and Survey Scams
- Utility Bill Scams
- Medicare Insurance Scams
- Charity Scams