What is Texas Phone Spoofing?
This can be defined as when a caller purposefully transmits false caller information to the receiver’s caller ID display. Scammers use this tactic to disguise the true origins of their phone calls and portray them as legitimate phone calls.
The proliferation of internet telephone technology has increased the instances of caller ID spoofing in reported phone scams. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology makes it easier for people to spoof caller IDs. Some VoIP providers provide facilities that allow subscribers to input the phone number they want to appear as their caller ID. This occurs during system configuration, so the number displayed as their caller ID is their chosen number and not the number in the database registry.
Phone or Caller ID spoofing is considered illegal in the United States, mainly when used to perpetrate crimes and fraud. The federal regulation that deals with caller ID spoofing is the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. It makes it unlawful to intentionally display false caller identification to commit fraud and other crimes. Cash fines are the usual punishment though some states are beginning to add jail time for offenders. Specific law enforcement purposes are exempt from the law, and customers are allowed to remain anonymous and not transmit any caller identification at all. Texas also has its laws for dealing with spoofing.
People use caller ID spoofing to perpetrate a variety of crimes. Some of these crimes are listed below.
Fraudsters spoof the receivers’ caller IDs to display caller information of government agencies or businesses that residents are likely to answer. A common form is the law enforcement scam, where a scammer spoofs the phone number of a local law enforcement agency. They pretend to be law enforcement officers and extort money from unsuspecting residents to stop arrests for fictitious crimes and fines.
Some residents use phone spoofing to play pranks and harass their fellow residents.
They spoof their caller IDs and make prank phone calls to unsuspecting people. These calls may escalate from just verbal abuse and mischief to serious mayhem. Some pranksters spoof their numbers to look like emergency services and call in bomb threats to cause significant disruptions to their victims’ lives and businesses.
A resident may answer a call from what appears to be a reputable local business or company and find out it is a robocall. The recorded message instructs the resident to answer a few questions for a survey or leaves a phone number to call a live agent. The survey questions are designed to trick the resident into giving up sensitive information, and the live agent is the scammer.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
Proof that your number has been spoofed comes in the form of multiple calls and text messages from people you never contacted. If this happens, scammers have likely used your number for fraudulent activity. To avoid being associated with these scams, file complaints with the FCC on their website or call 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322).
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
Phone or Caller ID spoofing is considered illegal in the United States when used to commit crimes. The federal regulation that deals with caller ID is the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. The law makes it unlawful to intentionally display false caller identification to commit fraud and other crimes. Cash fines are the regular punishment, although some states are adding jail time for offenders. Spoofing for specific law enforcement purposes is exempt from this law, and customers are allowed to stay anonymous and not transmit any identification information at all.
Scammers use caller identification spoofing because it allows them to contact their potential victims covertly. The scammers use caller ID spoofing to impersonate entities, like law enforcement, whom the public are more likely to respond when they call. Spoofing will make the receivers' caller IDs display the local police station’s caller information when the scammers are calling from overseas.
How Can You Identify and Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
The ability of spoofed calls to imitate real phone numbers makes it hard to identify the scammers behind them; however, there are steps residents can take to protect themselves. Some of these are listed below.
- Hang up the call if a caller from an organization like a bank or the IRS tries to collect sensitive information they should already have.
- Hang up the call if a call from local law enforcement tries to extort money with threats of arrest.
- Obtain and install a phone number lookup application that will help you block any numbers you identify as a spoofed call. If you put a number through the search and receive no result, it is a sign the number may be spoofed.
- Report any experiences with spoofed calls to the Federal Trade Commission by filing a complaint on their website or calling 1-888-382-1222.
- To counter spoofed robocalls, residents can register on the National Do Not Call Register and the Texas No-Call List. Numbers on these lists are exempt from robocalls.
Does Texas Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
In 2009 the Texas legislature added Section 301.151 to the Texas Business and Commerce Code, making caller ID spoofing illegal in Texas. This was to prevent telemarketers and businesses from transmitting misleading caller identification information or otherwise misrepresent the telemarketing calls’ origin. In 2019 the legislature added two bills to strengthen this section of the code further.
- House Bill 1992: which made it possible to go after telemarketers who contract foreign companies for calls. These foreign companies were responsible for several spoofed calls but could not be prosecuted because of their locations. The bill made it possible to target their employers in the United States. The penalty for caller ID spoofing in Texas is $1000 per call.
- House Bill 101: This was added to make a crime committed using phone spoofing a Class A misdemeanor. This would make it punishable by a year in jail and a $4000 fine.
The federal anti-spoofing regulation in America is the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. This act passed in 2009 makes it illegal in the United States for anyone to cause any caller identification service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information to defraud knowingly, cause harm, or wrongfully acquire anything of value. Residents are still allowed to be anonymous by not transmitting any identification at all. Some government and law enforcement purposes are also exempted from the act. Penalties imposed on offenders are fines between $10,000 and $1,000,000.
The FCC informed all voice service providers that by June 2021, caller ID authentication should be available on their networks using the STIR/SHAKEN protocols. These protocols authenticate caller identification information at the origin of the phone call and again at its destination before it finally reaches the receiver.
What are Common Phone Scams involving Caller ID Spoofing in Texas?
Scammers spoof their numbers to increase the chance that their targets will fall victim to their scams. They disguise their numbers to impersonate agencies or organizations whose calls the targets are more likely to answer. Residents who experienced any phone spoofing scams can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Residents may also contact the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-888-382-1222. Some examples of the phone spoofing scams that occur in Texas are listed below.
- Law enforcement impersonation scams
- Fake Government Grant scams
- Telemarketing scams
- Elderly scams
- Banking scams
- Medicare insurance scams
- Charity scams
- Utility bill scams