How to Catch Cell Phone Spoofing
By Ty Scalera
Updated September 28, 2017
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Cell phone spoofing, sometimes referred to as caller identification fraud, is the practice of altering identification of a caller's number so that a different number appears on the receiver's caller ID. The first company to offer the service commercially was Star38 in August 2004, according to a USA Today article published only a few days after the company opened its Internet portals for business. Since then numerous legislative acts have been proposed that would make spoofing illegal, but legal protection remains limited. There are two ways to protect yourself from cell phone spoofing: restricting incoming calls and verifying the identity of a caller once you're on the phone.
Restricting Incoming Calls
Save all the phone numbers you commonly receive calls from in your cell phone's address book. Be sure to include contacts such as health care providers, financial institutions, insurance agents and other businesses or organizations that might have reason to contact you.
Change your phone's security settings to allow incoming calls from contacts only. Methods for limiting incoming calls vary widely by phone model; look for instructions on security settings in your phone documentation.
Screen your messages. Any caller whose number is not recorded in your phone's address book will be rerouted directly to voicemail. If they leave a message, check to see that their callback number matches the number on your caller ID before returning the call.
Verifying a Caller's Identity
Tell the caller you're momentarily occupied and ask for her contact information--first and last name, phone number, and extension--so that you can call her back.
Contact customer service for the business or organization from which the person was supposedly calling and ask the representative if the callback number is a valid number for that business or organization. If it is not a valid number, do not return the call.
Listen for background noise during the call that indicates where the call is being made. For example, if the caller says he's from a tire shop, you should expect to hear air wrenches whirring in the background.
Ask the caller to send you information by mail. If she refuses or claims that it is not possible to do so, explain that it is not possible for you to give her information by phone.
Some phones do not provide an option for allowing only some calls; instead, you may have to choose either to allow all or to block all calls. Choosing to block all calls will send all calls to your voicemail so that you can screen and return them as necessary. Blocking incoming calls does not affect your ability to make outgoing calls.
If a caller makes obscene or threatening comments, or if you receive multiple calls and suspect they are from the same person, contact local police.
Ty Scalera has nine years of experience as a professional writer and editor. Her experience includes educational writing; food, wine, and travel writing; copywriting; business reports; fiction; and screenwriting. Scalera has a master's degree in writing from the University of Southern California and is currently working on a memoir of her experiences as a private investigator in training.