Phone spoofing is gradually becoming a norm in Indiana, especially with the advance in technology. Phone spoofing involves a caller purposely manipulating the caller ID details that appear on the recipient’s caller ID display to hide their true identity. Individuals mostly spoof their telephone numbers using the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. Many mobile applications and private websites offer easy-to-use VoIP and other spoofing services, where subscribers can spoof their Caller IDs and take on any ID of their choice.
Phone spoofing in the United States is allowed, but is considered a crime when used to perpetuate scams. Fraudsters take advantage of phone spoofing and impersonate legitimate organizations or government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or law enforcement agencies, to steal money, valuables, and personal information from their victims. The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 is the federal law that regulates caller ID spoofing. The law makes it illegal to purposely spoof a caller ID to defraud, steal money or information. Illegal spoofing attracts a cash fine, which is determined by the court. In some states, the fine may be accompanied by jail time.
Legitimate uses of Caller ID spoofing involve masking a number for a good cause, such as a law enforcement officer spoofing a Caller ID to facilitate an investigation or hide their direct telephone number from crime suspects. Medical practitioners may also spoof their telephone numbers to display their hospitals’ Caller ID when contacting patients from their homes. Some Caller ID spoofing that are considered illegal include:
Scammers pretending to be telemarketers often use spoofed robocalls to contact unsuspecting persons and claim to be representatives of legitimate telemarketing organizations. These robocalls are programmed to direct the recipients to press specific keys to speak with live agents. If the directives are followed, the scammers will try to sell counterfeit or nonexistent products and services and steal victims' money.
Here, scammers spoof their Caller IDs and take on the identities of government agencies or legitimate organizations that the target is familiar with. The aim is to steal money and valuables from unsuspecting individuals or trick them into divulging personal and financial information. For instance, a scammer may call and make up a justifiable reason why they need the recipient’s social security numbers, credit card details, or other financial information.
Mischievous persons may spoof their calls to play pranks on state residents that fall victim to their ploys. These calls sometimes escalate from pranks and verbal abuse to serious chaos, where the recipient will be harassed. Some persons may spoof their numbers to look like emergency services and call in fire or bomb threats to cause serious disarray to their victims’ affairs.
Victims of phone spoofing can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Why Is Phone Spoofing Illegal in Indiana?
Phone spoofing is generally legal unless when used to harm, defraud individuals, or steal valuables and personal information. As provided by the Truth in Caller ID Act, illegal spoofing attracts a cash fine or a jail term, depending on the state. Illegal phone spoofing also includes spoofing to commit any form of crime or play pranks that can result in any form of harassment. Fraudsters also take advantage of phone spoofing to mask their Caller IDs, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track them down. However, spoofing is legal for law enforcement purposes, but recipients can conceal their identities without disclosing any personal information.
Phone spoofers may cause their Caller IDs to resemble that of the targets or any reputable organization or government agency that the target will most likely not suspect. These persons may also practice neighborhood spoofing and make their Caller IDs appear as the state’s area code or a local police station’s Caller ID when the calls are from other countries.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
When a person begins to receive repeated calls from unknown numbers or numbers that they have not contacted before the time the call is received, then there is a possibility that the person’s number is being spoofed. In most cases, the person’s identity is being used for fraudulent activities, and such a person may end up being implicated and accused of a crime they are not guilty of. Therefore, to avoid being implicated, report the situation by filing a complaint on the FCC website or calling 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322).
How Can You Identify and Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
It might not be so easy to identify an illegal spoofed call because this type of call imitates a real phone number; nonetheless, state residents can protect themselves from spoofed calls and avoid falling victim to such calls by the following these steps:
- Hang up the call if a supposed local law enforcement agent attempts to extort money with threats of arrest.
- Hang up the call if the caller claiming to be from a government organization or legitimate organization requests any personal information they are originally meant to have if they are genuine. Be wary of disclosing personal and financial information over the phone.
- Download and install a mobile application that enables phone number lookup or call-blocking for calls that are perceived to be spoofed calls. If a user uses the phone number lookup app to search for a number and receives no result, it most likely indicates that the caller’s number may be spoofed.
- Register on the National Do Not Call List to ban spoofed robocalls. Hoosiers may also register on Indiana Do Not Call List.
- Report Caller ID spoofing by Filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or the Federal Trade Commission. Individuals can also call the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222 or the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322.
Does Indiana Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
Indiana enacted the Code § 24-5-14.5-9 to function alongside the Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act, which prohibits persons from deliberately entering false data into a phone caller-ID system with the intent to defraud, illegally obtain anything of value or cause harm to another person.
In 2009, Congress amended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and included the Truth in Caller ID Act due to the country's increased rate of spoofing. The Act and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit individuals or organizations from transmitting misleading caller ID information to defraud, inflict harm or extort residents. Persons that violate the Act or FCC rules will be punished with a cash fine of up to $10,000 but not exceeding $1,000,000. The Act also specifies that spoofing is legal only when the caller has justifiable reasons to mask their identities. Examples include law enforcement agents hiding their true identities while investigating a case or domestic abuse victims or doctors hiding their true identities while conversing about private medical issues. Residents are allowed to stay anonymous and withhold any personal information when receiving the calls.
According to the FCC, from June 2021, all voice service providers are to make caller ID authentication available on their networks using the STIR/SHAKEN protocols. These protocols authenticate caller identification details from where the phone call originates and at its destination before it eventually gets to the receiver.
What Are Common Phone Scams Involving Caller ID Spoofing in Indiana?
Fraudsters sometimes illegally spoof their Caller IDs and take on legitimate organizations and government agencies' identities to deceive Hoosiers and carry out criminal activities. Persons that fall victim to their schemes can file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or call the Federal Trade Commission on 1 (888) 382-1222. Common phone spoofing scams widespread in Indiana include:
- Telemarketing scams
- Medicare insurance scams
- Bank scams
- Charity scams
- Chinese Consulate scams
- Lottery scams
- IRS scams
- Elderly scams