Phone or caller identification spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information on the recipient's caller ID display to hide their identity. Scammers may use spoofing technology to deceive their target into believing the call is from a specific area. The steady rise in the use of internet services largely contributes to the many cases of phone spoofing in Rhode Island.
Phone spoofing has legitimate uses. Law enforcement agencies make use of spoofing when they intend to hide their contact details from suspected criminals. Similarly, medical practitioners use this technology when calling their patients from home to indicate their hospital’s name. In such cases of legal and non-harmful activities, phone spoofing may be considered to be legitimate.
Spoofing is considered illegal when used to defraud, harm, or steal valuable items or information from unsuspecting victims. Scammers may disguise their caller ID information as government agencies or other legitimate organizations to deceive residents. They may use this to extort money or other valuables from people or manipulate them into disclosing sensitive information.
Some of the most common phone spoofing scams perpetrated by scammers in Rhode Island include:
With spoofing, ill-intentioned individuals may impersonate the identity of the target’s colleagues, family members, or other relatives to cause the target one harm or the other. For instance, scammers may pose as a close friend who needs urgent help to extort money from an individual. Pranksters also employ spoofing to perpetuate both seemingly harmless and very harmful pranks on their targets.
Fraudsters may also use phone spoofing to pose as legitimate telemarketers while contacting unsuspecting individuals. They often use pre-recorded messages via robocalls to make the calls look genuine and standard. Through such calls, scammers may offer fake products or services to their targets at enticing price offers. They may also seek possible ways to extort sensitive information from their victims.
Scammers may spoof their numbers to look exactly like that of reputable organizations and entities that state residents know and trust. That way, they increase their chances of getting their targets to respond to their fraudulent demands. For instance, fraudsters may impersonate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to allege tax debts on people and even threaten legal actions on them if they do not respond.
How Do You Know Your Number is Being Spoofed?
Whenever a person starts receiving calls and texts in response to communications they did not initiate or requests they did not make, there is a high chance that their phone numbers are being spoofed. Residents who suspect such possibly fraudulent activities are advised to report online to the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to avoid falling victim to the scammers’ tricks. The FCC can also be reached via their phone number 1-888-225-5322.
Why is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
The Truth In Caller ID Act of 2009 clearly states that phone spoofing may be considered illegal if it is done with harmful or dubious intentions. When a caller spoofs their caller ID to defraud, extort or harm their targets, such spoofing is considered illegal. Scammers may use spoofing techniques to manipulate their victims into releasing sensitive information for fraudulent purposes. With the Neighbor Spoofing technique, scammers may even change the display of their caller ID number to assume the same area code of the recipient. This method can be applied to gain more trust from the residents and, as such, have more penetration to carry out scam activities.
However, not every phone spoofing activity is illegal in the state of Rhode Island. Under some exceptions, such as court orders, law enforcement agencies and other legitimate organizations may receive authorization to spoof their caller ID.
How Can You Identify and Protect Yourself From Illegal Spoofed Calls?
Although it may be difficult to identify if an incoming call is spoofed or not, there are ways to reduce to the barest minimum, the risk of falling victim to phone scams employing called ID spoofing. Such preventive and control measures include:
- Do not give out any sensitive information over the phone. Such sensitive information that demands strict caution include account details, social security number, passwords, etc.
- Ignore calls from unknown sources even though they seem to be from legitimate entities. If you receive such calls and notice any suspicious activity, do not hesitate to disconnect from them. Never spend too much time trying to figure out their authenticity because the more time you spend on the call, the more likely they will gain access to you.
- Download reverse phone lookup applications to know the true identity of callers.
- Register your number on the National Do Not Call list to reduce the risk of falling victim to spoofed calls.
- Do not hesitate to report any suspected spoofing activity to the Federal Communications Commissions by filing a complaint by calling their line on 1 (888) 225-5322.
Does Rhode Island have Anti Spoofing Laws?
In Rhode Island, spoofing activities are generally regulated by the federal Truth In Caller ID Act of 2009. This law specifies that manipulating caller ID with the intention of perpetrating any fraudulent activity is considered unlawful. The rule applies to both individuals and corporate entities to minimize scams’ rate via unauthorized phone spoofing. Law enforcement agencies such as the police are provided some exemptions from the Truth in Caller ID Act. Such organizations may be authorized to use spoofing techniques to engage in legal activities such as investigations or tracking of suspects.
The act also permits users to go anonymous with their caller ID during phone calls, provided that no caller ID details are transmitted at all. The FCC also implemented the STIR/SHAKEN protocol for caller ID authentication mandatory for all voice service providers from June 2021. The protocol enables service providers to authenticate caller IDs during phone calls at the caller and recipient ends. As stipulated by the FTC, the Telemarketing Sales Rules mandate telemarketers to transmit correct phone numbers and names during telemarketing calls. This is in a bid to increase privacy and safety on the users’ part and accountability for the telemarketers.
What are Common Phone Scams involving Caller ID spoofing in Rhode Island?
One of the most popular spoofing scams in Rhode Island is the National Grid scam. Scammers disguise themselves as official representatives from National Grid to demand immediate payment for power supply over the phone. They often threaten to shut the target off the power supply if they do not yield to the demand. Note that the National Grid can contact customers with outstanding debts via phone calls and offer them payment options, but in such cases, the National Grid may never demand direct payment over phone calls. Should any resident suspect such a scam, he can report to the National Grid via their Customer Contact Center on 1-800-322-3223. Other prevalent phone spoofing scams in Rhode Island include:
- Grandparent scam
- "Notice of Appearance in Court" Scam
- Telemarketing scam
- Mystery shoppers scam/Bogus check
- International lottery scam
- Tech support scam