Caller ID spoofing (for lack of a better term, apparently) is simply masking the outgoing caller ID with a number other than the real one, which is technically not illegal unless you’re doing it for unlawful purposes.
The reason it’s not illegal is because there actually are legitimate purposes for spoofing, such as businesses who want to show only one phone number for multiple lines, as part of a PBX system, or victims of domestic abuse who want to hide their number for safety reasons.
It is definitely illegal, however, if someone spoofs a phone number to impersonate a bank, for example, in order to solicit your account information. Though it can be difficult to track down the person responsible, there is some action you can take to protect yourself.
When you suspect a caller to be a malicious spoofer
Use common sense.
Caller ID spoofers can sometimes be fairly clever, but you can generally protect yourself from being victimized by using common sense. If a legit is calling you regarding your private account, chances are you were already expecting a call.
Most institutions will not call you asking for your personal information, and you should never give it out, unless you were the one who placed the call.
Always log out of your accounts, and monitor them carefully.
Through social engineering and other tactics, attackers can acquire your personal information either directly from you, or sometimes completely in spite of you.
One thing you can do to avoid letting your information fall into the wrong hands is to always log out of all your accounts when you are not actively using them. Additionally, you should monitor your accounts and keep an eye out for unusual activity.
Reverse-lookup the number they’re using.
A simple Google search can sometimes give you specific information for the number a malicious caller is spoofing. Just type in the exact number they used, to see if there is any history of scamming associated with the number.
File an official complaint with the FCC.
Record the call, if possible, and take note of the call details, including the exact date and time of the call, the number they dialed (your number), and the spoofed number they used. Once you have all of this information, you can file a consumer complaint here:
If you call the number the spoofer was using, directly, and find out who it truly belongs to, that organization or individual may be willing to investigate for you.
When your number is fraudulently being used for spoofing:
You won’t get the call.
If you find out that someone is spoofing your number, then obviously they’re not going to call you because you would see your own number on the caller ID.
What is probably going to happen is that you will start receiving calls from people who say they are “returning your call” because they received fraudulent calls from your number.
Gather as much information as you can.
Contact those who received the calls from your spoofed number, and ask them to provide a call example, with the specific date, time, and the number dialed when the spoof occurred.
Try to get any additional information that you can, including a recording of the call (if possible), or details of what the spoofer said during the call.
File an FCC complaint.
Once you have gathered all the information, you can submit an official complaint with the FCC using the same link provided above.
It’s a good idea to ask the party who received the call from your spoofed number would be willing to allow the FCC to also contact them regarding your case.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.