"Spoofing" is when a caller falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID to disguise their identity. Spoofing is used to trick someone into giving away personal information so it can be sold and/or used for fraudulent activity. U.S. law and FCC rules prohibit most types of spoofing.
You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Caller ID lets consumers avoid unwanted phone calls by displaying caller names and phone numbers, but the caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or the government. Be careful about responding to requests for personal information.
If you think you're being spoofed:
- Be wary if you are being asked for information
- Never give out account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information
- If someone says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, set a password for it. Note: some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
If you receive a call and you suspect caller ID information has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC.
Check out the Imposter Scams video from the IRS to help you stay aware of spoofing: