“Who is this?” “Why did you call me?” “Stop harassing me!!” If you’ve been getting messages like these from people you’ve never contacted, someone might be spoofing your phone number. Read on to learn what to do if your number is spoofed.
What is number spoofing?
Number spoofing is when someone fakes outgoing caller ID info to show a number that isn’t theirs. The spoofed number often belongs to a real person or business, but not to the person using it to call you.
A common strategy is neighbor spoofing, which is when the caller displays a number with your area code so that you’re more likely to pick up. Scammers will even spoof the numbers of legitimate government agencies, banks, and insurance providers to fool people into paying fraudulent fees or revealing sensitive information.
Number spoofers are like modern-day pirates, commandeering phone numbers instead of ships. Spoofers’ and pirates’ goal is the same: to make a profit by dishonest means.
Is call spoofing legal?
That depends. There are situations when number spoofing is arguably necessary, or at least understandable. For example, a doctor might display her office number when she needs to make professional calls from her home or cell. A company might display its toll-free customer service line rather than one of its hundreds or thousands of numbers. A person traveling for work might display their home office number when making calls from abroad. In all of these scenarios, call spoofing is legal.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Truth in Caller ID Act, call spoofing is illegal only when the caller intends to “defraud, harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value” from the call recipient. In these cases, people found guilty of call spoofing can be fined up to $10,000 per call.
Signs your number is being spoofed
The surest sign that someone is using your number to make spoofed calls is if you start getting multiple calls or SMS responding to communication you never initiated. You might get texts asking who you are, or get calls from people demanding that you stop bothering them. If you’ve never tried to contact these people, then your phone number is probably being spoofed.
What to do if your number gets spoofed
Unfortunately, there’s no single, easy solution if you suspect your number is being spoofed. However, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the headache it’s causing you and others.
1. Record a new voicemail message. You can say something like, “If you got a call from this number, please understand that telemarketers or scammers are using my number without my permission. For your own security, do not engage with them and please block this number.” As more people block your number, it will lose its value to spoofers, making them less likely to continue using it.
2. If you’re getting overwhelmed with calls and texts, you can temporarily (or permanently) use Truecaller to block all numbers that aren’t in your phonebook.
If that’s too extreme for you, or if you suspect your number’s only being neighbor spoofed, you can use Truecaller to block only numbers similar to yours. (When you use this blocking option, all of your contacts can still reach you.)
Watch our video to learn how to enable advanced call-blocking options with Truecaller:
3. File a complaint with the FCC. The agency’s chairman says it’s cracking down on people making illegal robocalls and spoof calls, so any information you provide might help. File your complaint online at their Consumer Complaint Center.
Hang in there! Scammers tend to cycle through numbers like fast food joints churn out fries, so they’ll stop using your number after a while. By following the steps above, you should be able to speed up the process. Since number spoofers often call the same people multiple times, they’ll realize your number’s no longer useful to them as more and more people block it — and then they’ll stop spoofing it.