What Is Florida Phone Spoofing?
Phone spoofing, also known as phone number hijacking, is an act that involves a caller deliberately falsifying the caller ID information that pops up on the recipient’s caller ID display to hide their true identity. With the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, users can easily disguise their telephone numbers. Several mobile applications and websites offer VoIP phone services and spoofing capabilities so subscribers can input the phone numbers they want to appear as their Caller IDs.
The United States permits Caller ID spoofing except when used for ploys like defrauding or to harm the call recipient. Fraudsters sometimes use phone spoofing to take on the identities of reputable organizations or government agencies such as law enforcement agencies or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to make people fall victim to their fraudulent schemes.
Over time, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has received several reports of fraudsters claiming to be FDLE officers to defraud citizens. These fraudsters call and try to threaten their targets with punitive legal actions such as arrest and freezing of their bank accounts. The fraudsters then order their victims to pay up to overlook their made-up crimes or withdraw the threats of punishment. They mostly request payments via wire transfers, gift cards, and other payment methods that are difficult to trace. When an individual spoofs Caller ID with malicious intent to cause harm or make the recipient divulge their personal information, such spoofing is against the law.
Even though it is frequently used by fraudsters to carry malicious intentions, there are still legitimate uses of Caller ID spoofing. An example of this is when a law enforcement officer spoofs a Caller ID to facilitate an investigation, where they hide their direct telephone numbers from crime suspects. Also, medical doctors may spoof their phone numbers to display their hospitals’ phone numbers or names when contacting their patients from their homes. Some of the scams and illegal acts perpetrated with phone spoofing include:
This occurs when fraudsters spoof Caller IDs to impersonate representatives of government agencies and other credible organizations in the state or across the country. These fraudsters impersonate such credible parties to get unsuspecting individuals to divulge financial information and other personal information. For example, a scammer may impersonate an employee of a reputable financial institution used by or known to the target. The scammer will then trick the target into divulging personal information such as social security numbers, credit card details, and other financial information while claiming to be verifying their account. This type of scam is quite prevalent in the United States and usually a component of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scams.
Here, scammers use spoofed robocalls to contact their targets and pretend to be representatives of reputable telemarketing companies. These robocalls direct their targets to follow certain prompts to speak with “supposed trusted live agents.” If they follow such directives, the scammers will try to sell bogus products and services and steal victims' money.
Phone spoofing is used by persons with malicious intentions to trick and harass residents that fall victim to their schemes. These persons spoof their caller IDs and call people to trick them. The calls may escalate from mere verbal abuse and pranks to elaborate schemes to cause financial ruin, identity theft, and bodily harm. Some persons may spoof their numbers and disguise as emergency services, after which they call in bomb threats to their victims’ homes or places of business.
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal in Florida?
Florida considers Caller ID spoofing illegal when done with intent to defraud the recipient or commit any crime, including playing pranks that can result in any form of harassment. Fraudsters exploit phone spoofing to continually alter their caller IDs, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to apprehend them. The Truth in Caller ID Act further codifies that phone spoofing is illegal if used to cause harm, defraud individuals, or illegally acquire valuables. Illegal spoofing may attract a fine penalty or a jail term, depending on the gravity of the offense committed. Spoofing is legal for legitimate law enforcement purposes, although recipients are permitted to stay anonymous and not divulge any personal information.
People who engage in phone spoofing mostly use numbers that the target would most likely not suspect to carry out dishonest schemes. These persons may also use spoofing to make their targets' Caller IDs display the area codes where the targets live or local law enforcement numbers. Also prominent in Florida is “spouse spoofing,” which makes a call appear as if a spouse or family member is calling. Florida residents must disregard any suspicious phone calls.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
Typically, when a person’s number is being spoofed, the person will continuously receive several calls or text messages from unfamiliar telephone numbers that they have never contacted prior to that time. In most cases, the constant calls are because the recipient's number has been compromised and their identity is being used to perpetrate scams. Avoid being wrongfully accused of these scams by filing a complaint on the FCC website or calling 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322).
How Can You Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
Identifying an illegal spoofed call can be quite challenging because a spoofed call looks like it is coming from a familiar phone number. However, Florida residents can protect themselves from such calls and avoid falling victim to illegally spoofed calls by the following these steps:
- Terminate the call if the caller claims to be from a government organization or a reputable organization and requests any personal information. Be careful not to disclose sensitive information over the phone.
- Terminate the call if a supposed local law enforcement attempts to extort money with threats of arrest.
- Download call-blocking or phone number lookup mobile applications that allow users to block numbers linked to spoofed calls. If an individual puts a number through the search and receives no result, it is an indication that the number may be spoofed.
- Add your number to the Do Not Call List provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in order to ban spoofed robocalls. Florida residents may also subscribe to Florida Do Not Call List.
- File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or the FTC to report Caller ID spoofing online. Interested persons can also call the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222 or the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322.
Does Florida Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
In 2008, Florida passed its Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act which prohibits anyone from making a call where false information is deliberately entered into a phone caller-ID system with the aim of deceiving, defrauding, or misleading the call’s recipient. The Act also prohibits individuals from entering false data into telephone caller ID systems with the aim of deceiving, defrauding, or misleading the calls’ recipients.
Consequent to increased spoofing, the Congress amended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to include the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. Under the Act and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, individuals and organizations are prohibited from transmitting false or misleading caller ID information with the aim of defrauding, inflicting harm, or extorting anything of value. Violation of the Act or FCC rules attracts a penalty of up to $10,000. The Act indicates that spoofing is not illegal when the caller has legitimate reasons to conceal their information, such as law enforcement agencies investigating a case. This also includes domestic abuse victims or doctors who wish to discuss private medical matters.
The country-wide anti-spoofing regulation in the United States is the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. The Act considers spoofing illegal if anyone uses it to transmit misleading or false caller ID to deliberately defraud, cause harm, or steal anything of value. Residents are permitted to be anonymous by withholding their identities. Based on the Act, violation attracts fines between $10,000 and $1,000,000.
The FCC notified all voice service providers that from June 2021, they should make caller ID authentication available on their networks using the STIR/SHAKEN protocols. The protocols validate caller identification information from where a phone call originates from and at its destination before it finally reaches the receiver.
What Are Common Phone Scams Involving Caller ID Spoofing in Florida?
Scammers illegally spoof their numbers to trick unsuspecting Florida residents into answering their calls. These persons often use phone spoofing to conceal their true identities and impersonate reputable organizations and government agencies to defraud or cause harm. Victims can file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or contact the Federal Trade Commission on 1 (888) 382-1222. Common phone spoofing scams prominent in Florida include:
- Elderly scams
- Charity scams
- Chinese Consulate scams
- Lottery scams
- Medicare insurance scams
- Bank scams
- IRS scams
- Telemarketing scams