Caller ID spoofing is when the number that appears on your Caller ID is not the real number being used to make the call. The person calling purposely gives a fake number. Users spoof their numbers to hide their identity. Caller ID spoofing is not illegal, as long as it is used for a good purpose. However, many use false information to make you believe that the number belongs to someone else. Some use the trick to make their number appear as a local number when they are calling from out of the area. They may also want to make their real number untraceable.
The Legal Way
Businesses use spoofing for good reasons. A company can use spoofing so calls from extension lines inside the company show the business’ main phone number. Doctors and other professionals use spoofing to hide their personal numbers. The patient recognizes the phone number and the doctor’s privacy is respected. Law enforcement agencies use caller ID spoofing for similar reasons. Lastly, at-home workers may use spoofing to show their company’s phone number instead of their personal information.
The Illegal Way
Scammers use spoofing to trick someone into answering the phone. People are getting smarter, so fooling them isn’t easy. However, if a thief wants you to think he is from a legitimate company like Microsoft or Amazon, he can spoof the company’s phone number. The person answering the call could be fooled by the claim that the caller is from Microsoft’s tech support or Amazon’s billing department.
The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 forbids anyone from spoofing phone numbers if there is an intent to “defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.” Anyone caught violating the Truth in Caller ID Act will get a fine of up to $10,000 for each offense. However, the fines aren’t always enough to stop most scammers, especially if they become untraceable.
Scammers like to use fake local numbers to fool people into thinking the call is from a local business, school or neighbor. Secondly, they could use a local exchange or choose a number close to your own. For example, if your number is 717-573-0736, the scammer might use 717-573-1234 or 717-573-0712. People answer local phone numbers more often than out of the area numbers in case it’s someone they know. Although most people don’t answer unknown numbers, the person might think they’re getting a call from their child’s school, a neighbor in need or their dry cleaner. If you see a number you don’t recognize but could be important, you can use a white pages iPhone app or free reverse phone lookup app
to search before picking up the call. You can return real calls right away. The Federal Communications Commission is urging the telecommunications industry to use a stronger caller ID authentication system.
Avoiding Spoofing Scams
People can use several ways to avoid spoofing scams. Let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail. If you answer a call from an unknown number, don’t answer any questions, especially if you would give are “yes” or “no” answers. If you are asked to press a button to opt out of calls, hang up the phone. You should also hang up if the caller asks for your personal information.
Readers often ask if it’s possible to look up phone numbers for free. Many sites offer free White Pages, cell phone numbers or reverse lookups. However, what they deliver is bad information, limited information, or require payment for a premium service. Some sites refer you to a separate paying site. In effect, I have never found a completely free site or app with complete and accurate information. Don’t despair. There are several efficient and accurate apps that will supply the information you seek. Some are more expensive and more difficult to use so it is wise to request a trial before committing to a membership. Popular sites include CallerSmart, BeenVerified, Intelius, and Spokeo.
What Free Phone Lookup Apps Offer
Not all apps are created equal, and some are better than others. I have done extensive research on free apps using known information. It is common to receive bad or incomplete information. I have routinely encountered the following issues:
Faulty or Outdated Information
Approximately 50% of the information found on free phone lookup sites is outdated or incorrect. I searched my personal information and received an address from 12 years ago. There were ancient phone numbers and a list of relatives and associates that are complete strangers to me. I have used the same process on at least five other people with the same results.
Lack of Address
Many sites mask the address unless you pay for premium service.
No Cell Phone Number
Complete cell phone directories are practically non-existent. Directories that exist are incomplete and are not up to date.
No Reverse Lookup
I use an iPhone reverse cell phone lookup app on a regular basis. Unknown callers clog my phone daily and I want to search the numbers. Free sites will offer to look up the number but give old information or require you to pay for the caller’s name and location.
Why Isn’t it Free?
The sites that offer free information get it from other websites. They make no investment in obtaining or culling information. They simply share a database. Sites that offer accurate information must pay to keep the information current, therefore they pass the fee along to the end user. If you require up to date information and the ability to do a reverse lookup, spend a few dollars and be sure the results are correct.
You might think that phone scams aren’t something you need to worry about. Yes, you may have received weird calls in the past, but you’d never fall for any of them. There’s the IRS scam and free giveaway scams, but it’s pretty evident to you that these are scams. What if you got a different type of call though, one where someone claimed to have kidnapped your loved one. What would you do? The kidnapping phone scam is the latest (and scariest) phone scam happening in the United States.
What Is The Kidnapping Phone Scam?
The kidnapping phone scam targets families. In this scam you will get a call from someone claiming to have your loved one, usually a son or daughter. You may hear screaming in the background and the caller may know personal information like family members’ names and the area that you live in, all this makes their call more believable.
The caller will demand you wire them money immediately, or your family member will be injured or even worse killed. This is all designed to make you panic.
The caller will often get the information on you and your family from social media.
Protecting Yourself From This Scam
The best way to protect yourself from this frightening scam is to keep your social media accounts private and only share information with people you know and trust online. Refrain from publishing posts that divulge a lot of information publicly.
Another thing that you can do to protect yourself is keep a cool head, although this is very difficult to do.
- Ask the caller personal questions about the person that the person they say they have would only know.
- Try to get in touch with the person they say they have. While on the phone with the caller try to text the person they say they have or get someone else to call the person that they claim is kidnapped.
- Contact the police. Though the caller will tell you not to contact authorities, be sure to contact them.
If you ever get a call like this be sure to call your local authorities immediately. You can also filter your calls that you receive by running them through a white pages iPhone app. These apps will help you see if there are any phone scams associated with a certain phone number. There are many option in the App Store and in Google Play so give a few a try!