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How to Stop Someone from Spoofing my Phone Number
October 28, 2021
Reading time: 7 minutes
Spoof calls are more than just a major annoyance, they can often lead to dangerous situations. When spoofers have access to your number, it may put your friends, family, and colleagues at risk.
While following personal security best practices are a great way to reduce that risk, there are several specific tactics you can use to shut down phone spoofing. In this article, we’ll cover those tactics to help you put an end to spoof calls. But first, let’s take a look at what exactly a spoof call is.
What is caller ID spoofing?
“Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity.” – The formal definition of spoofing from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Often shortened to spoof calling or call spoofing, caller ID spoofing occurs through a variety of methods to mask the true origin of a call.
The problem is that the practice itself isn’t illegal in the United States. However, according to the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, a spoofed call becomes unlawful when it’s made “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”
Spoofers are eager to gather active telephone numbers that will appear more trustworthy than 1-800 numbers, because it increases the likelihood a victim will answer the call. That’s why answering unwanted calls can often make the problem worse.
What do I do when someone is using my phone number?
Spoofers collect numbers in different ways, and it’s usually up to you to act when you believe your number was compromised. Unfortunately, since the definition of spoofing and U.S. legal protections give spoofers some wiggle room, it may be challenging to find help until things get serious.
You should contact the proper authorities for help when necessary, but you can also take the following steps to clamp down on a problem before it gets out of control. However, if you have evidence of ongoing criminal activity, reach out to the police or FCC immediately.
Here’s how to tell if a phone number is spoofed – and what you can do to fight back.
1. Encourage callbacks to block your number
It may sound counterintuitive, but the best thing to do when your number is spoofed is to make it less accessible. If someone receives a spoofed call from your number, they may call back to follow up. If this happens, encourage the caller to block your number immediately. The blocking makes your number less attractive to spoofers, and more likely to fall naturally out of use.
If you prefer not to interact directly with callers, you can record a voicemail that explains the situation with the suggestion to block your number.
Be polite and clear in your message, because the caller may already be frustrated by the situation. You may not have the same option with friends and family, but this is a good place to start if callbacks become more frequent.
2. Install an anti-spoofing app on your smartphone
You can protect your phone calls and text messages with an anti-spoofing app. These services typically focus on reducing access to your actual phone number by masking it with a secondary number (that you can often specify).
While this may sound similar to spoofers, these legitimate apps can hide numbers because of federal caller ID regulations. Unless you mask the number for the purpose of theft or harassment, you’re protected. It’s similar to the exemption for law enforcement, because they may use spoofing to help investigate criminal activity.
One popular option is SpoofCard, which is available for iOS and Android. You will pay a fee following the free trial period, but it provides a variety of features in addition to call masking.
With SpoofCard, you can record spoofed calls to help gather evidence for a complaint, and you can send calls straight to voicemail which is helpful if you have done step #1 above.
3. See if your phone service provider offers protection
While the options vary depending on your mobile provider, some phone companies offer spoofing protection as a paid service. You may also find that it’s more affordable than subscribing to a professional anti-spoofing service.
For example, AT&T provides upgraded security as a standalone service or with certain plans. The AT&T Call Protect app protects users from spoofed calls as well as spam calls. There is also a paid plan with extra features like security management controls and reverse number lookup.
4. Use caller ID blocking when possible
Want to know how to block your phone number? If you’re eager to hide your information from caller IDs, all you have to do is dial *67 before entering the outgoing number. This is a great, and very easy, way to effectively use a private number at no extra cost.
One of the drawbacks is that it won’t work in all situations. For example, you can’t use *67 when you dial a toll-free or emergency number. Also, when you block all caller ID information, you may discourage the other person from answering.
5. File a complaint with the FCC
If you follow the above steps to protect yourself and you’re still experiencing spoofing issues, it’s time to file a complaint with the FCC. The FCC also provides access to complaint data, such as national statistics and helpful legal information.
You can send in your issue via the FCC’s complaint submission form. As you’ll see from the complaint stats, this government agency receives a lot of these submissions. However, an agent will typically acknowledge your complaint quickly, especially if it’s serious.
In addition to the FCC, make sure to contact local law enforcement about the issue. And if it’s happening through your work number, tell your employer immediately. For another step, you can also report the issue to your state’s attorney general.
How do I handle persistent spoofing issues?
We know it’s difficult and annoying to update contacts, accounts, and associates, but changing your home or cell phone number is the last resort option to consider.
If you’re willing to make the change, you can start over with a fresh number – and a clean slate. Just make sure to add your new number to the National Do Not Call Registry. You can also check to see if your state has its own do not call list.
Best ways to guard against fraud
Spoofing is just as annoying when you’re on the receiving end of calls. In addition to the measures we discussed, there are other steps you can take to avoid phone scams and related fraudulent activity.
Don’t answer unfamiliar calls, even from local numbers: If your voicemail is set up, there are few drawbacks to call screening.
If you’re suspicious about a call, hang up: Did someone call you with claims about your car warranty or insurance? Hang up the call and check your own paperwork and documentation to verify the claim. Or get in touch with your provider if you’re not sure.
Ignore suspicious prompts: If you’re unsure about a call, don’t provide any information to whoever is on the other end. Also, if they ask you to punch in any information with your phone’s touchpad, don’t do it.
Ignore giveaways or prizes that demand a fee: Legitimate organizations won’t ask for compensation in order to qualify for or receive winnings.
Move slowly if you’re suspicious: Always exercise caution. Scammers work on a massive scale, so it’s wise to hang up if someone is pushing you to provide information more quickly than normal.
Anti-spoofing advice from the FCC
The legal situation surrounding spoofing leaves a lot up to you, but the FCC is specific about guidance and good phone habits. Read through the commission’s page on spoofing for more info and advice. There is more guidance on the robocall and spoofing index page, too.
Summary: protecting yourself against spoof calls
As you can see, the question of "How to stop someone from spoofing my phone number” is often complicated. For most people, the easiest option is to discourage spoofers through the steps we outlined above.
However, if it becomes serious and there appears to be criminal behavior, it’s important to inform your mobile provider, file a complaint with the FCC, and report it to local law enforcement.
About the Author
Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.
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