Federal legislation aims to prevent caller id spoofing

HR 5126, Truth in Caller ID Act of 2006, is in the first stages of consideration by Congress, referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.and the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The sponsor, Joe Barton, launched his campaign with a press release explaining the manipulation of caller id, which was timed to the subcommittee hearing.

This bill is necessary to shut down the growing problem of manipulating caller ID information. Caller ID ‘spoofing’ occurs when a caller masquerades as someone else by falsifying the number that appears on the recipient’s caller ID display.

However, it appears that a mismatch between the originating telephone number and that which appears on a calller id box has not emerged as a problem requiring federal legislation. Barton’s example underscores this point.

Everyone is familiar with the caller ID product that provides to a consumer the name and number of who is placing an incoming call. Unfortunately, caller ID spoofing is yet another tool available to criminals to hijack the identity of consumers. For instance, the AARP recently ran a ‘scam alert’ when someone posing to be a courthouse employee called a Sterling, Mich. woman claiming that she had missed jury duty that week. The caller threatened that a warrant was being issued for her arrest and then asked her to confirm her Social Security number, to verify her identity. This scam can appear even more real when the con artist uses a caller ID ‘spoofing’ product which allows the con to display the name and number of the courthouse on the caller ID box.

This law is aimed at the commercial uses of technology that changes the name and number that displays on the caller id screen. There is inadvertent telephone number altering that occurs when receiving calls from some cell phones which don’t display the exact originating number. Also, 3-way calling, one of the myriad telephone carrier products, will indicate a landline number on caller id linked to a location other than the one associated with the calling party. Police departments are familiar with this problem, which is significant in an emergency situation. This legislation won’t squeeze the telecommunication companies.

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9 thoughts on “Federal legislation aims to prevent caller id spoofing

  1. There are many good and valid uses for caller ID spoofing that have nothing to do with fraud or misrepresentation. Those who limited their vision to abuses and not to positive uses are narrow in their thinking.

    For instance, I have a family law case where my client is the wife. She wants telephonic contact from me at her home telephone but doesn’t want my agency phone number to show up on her caller Id because her abusive husband routinely scrolls through their caller ID data to see who has called.

    So she gave me the phone number of a close friend of hers to spoof so when I call, the friends number shows up. This is a perfectly acceptable use of this good tool.

    Any tool, whether it be a hammer or a telephone can be abused.

  2. i disagree mr. wise. imo, this is not an appropriate investigative tool. it is fraud however you slice it.

    clearly, the legislature will address intent broader than “fraud or intent to do harm”, because telemarketers “spoof” merely to get folk to answer the phone. further, during elections some candidates do the same thing.

    imo, this is a tool you should leave behind and think of another way to obtain this information.

  3. I think loosing the ability to spoof will remove a excellent tool. I can understand the need to protect people from fraud or abuse and criminal activity.But when you are using the information in a lawful manner to apprehend fugtives,locate missing children and attempting to protect the public at large.At some point the question comes up is the greater good being preserved for the few or the many?

  4. I see where Bruce Hulme is claiming victory on this bill. Oops–I mean wrongly claiming victory in an attempt to get PIs to pony up money for the feckless NCISS. As someone intimately involved in the bills crafting I can tell you the language change was at the request of NNEDV–not NCISS. The change was made in an attempt to protect women residing in the more than 3000 battered women’s shelters across the U.S. Further, I have it on good authority that the language change will not hold in the Senate–indeed it is quite possible it won’t hold in the current House bill as changes are already being discussed. A differing intent standard will be crafted to protect women and also stop caller ID spoofing being used as part of pretext operations by information brokers, et al. Finally, any PI or info broker who believes that the bill is designed to allow a PI to deceive the recipient of a call is sorely mistaken and better read the conference report language currently being crafted as part of the legislative history that will be available to enforcement agencies and judges. I would also remind folks that the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act at the state and federal levels remains in play. So my best advice (for what it’s worth) would be think before you accept the advice of those seeking to claim false–or at least premature–victory designed to raise funds. That advice could sadly have you end up on the wrong end of a legal action for spoofing.

  5. The addition of the phrase “intent to defraud” clarifies that this law is aimed toward those who alter the phone number displayed for criminal gain, not, say, process servers who are confirming a physical address?

  6. At the bill mark-up this morning an amendment added the following language: “…with the intent to defraud or cause harm.” The bill passed out of committee without opposition and was referred to the full House for passage.

  7. Testimony at the Caller-ID Spoofing hearing raised the concerns that Brian references in his post. Look for the bill to be amended to address those concerns, most likely through adding an intent component. The legal question becoming: Did the caller act intentionally to deceive the recipient of the call as to the true identity of the caller?

  8. Actually I think the telco carriers may have a problem – many trunk lines they issue to large companies (like telemarketers, insurance companies, etc) show a false number on caller ID that in no way connects to the caller.

    Therefor, the Telco will have to spend alot of $$$ to redo all their switching software (and maybe hardware), and the clients themselves may need to update their PBXs, to depict correct Caller ID.

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