Telco Ltd. Blog

Caller ID Spoofing

Every once in a long while, a customer will contact us and tell us that their phone system is going haywire.  They say that a particular person or group of people keep getting calls from their company, often in the middle of the night, on a regular basis.  As they are not physically making these calls, they ask us to investigate what’s going on.

What we invariably find in these situations is that something known as Caller ID spoofing is taking place.  This is the practice of calling someone and having a number other than your own phone number show up on the other person’s phone display.  This is similar to what spammers do with email, where the person who sent the email appears to be someone other than who it actually is.  There are a number of reasons that Caller ID spoofing is used, such as for pranks, or with the intent to harm or defraud someone.

But not all Caller ID spoofing is malicious in nature.  Sometimes, companies do it unintentionally by accidentally transposing numbers in their phone system programming.  There are also legitimate reasons to do it on purpose, for example, when a commercial service is making a call on behalf of their client, or when used by law enforcement in the course of an investigation.  ESI (the manufacturer of the phone systems we sell), even has a feature on its systems equipped with ISDN PRI lines called Intelligent Call Forwarding™, which works when a caller calls into the business and is transferred out to another phone number.  With Intelligent Call Forwarding™, the recipient of the forwarded call sees the Caller ID of the original caller.  This is very useful, and a great selling feature.

While Caller ID Spoofing has been around for awhile and some have been inappropriately using it for many years, it is taking time for the laws to catch up.  There are a couple of bills in Congress that would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit manipulation of caller identification information.  On June 27, 2007, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved and submitted to the Senate calendar S.704, a bill that would make it a crime to spoof caller ID.  The “Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007″ would outlaw causing “any caller identification service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information” via “any telecommunications service or IP-enabled voice service”. Law enforcement is exempted from the rule.  On June 12, 2007, a similar bill (H.R. 251) passed in the House of Representatives by a voice vote.  It now awaits passage in the Senate, after which it would need to be signed into law by the President to take effect.

You can protect yourself from Caller ID Spoofing in general by making sure you don’t reveal passwords, account information or other sensitive information over the telephone to someone who has initiated the call to you, unless you know the person and have already verified their identity and credentials.  Just because their Caller ID shows that they are from your bank doesn’t make it so.  Unfortunately, if someone else is spoofing your number, you may have a more difficult time getting the behavior to stop.  This is because the phone call whose caller ID is being spoofed could originate from lines anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, and unless the person on the other end of the line is willing to tell you who they really are, your only recourse would be to go through a legal process of getting the call traced, or to have the authorities help you.  Because there is no national Caller ID spoofing law yet, and local laws on Caller ID spoofing don’t exist in many places, your best bet in getting the authorities to help you would be to convince them that other laws are being broken (such as identity theft or fraud).

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