Spoofing: Debt collectors sleight of hand dialing for dollars
As debt collectors become more invasive in contacting consumers, spoofing has been utilized with greater frequency. Spoofing is a calling scheme that allows a telephone caller to fool the caller ID system of the recipient. Unfortunately, the law has yet to catch up with the problem as is so often the case, allowing ‘spoofing’ to continue unabated, much to the aggravation and detriment of consumers, who can and are often fooled by the caller as being someone other than who they claim to be.
How does spoofing work?
Instead of the name of a person, company or 800 number, the caller ID screen of the recipient will display whatever label the caller wishes to show up, such as “Customer Service” or “Law Office”. The goal of spoofing is to get the recipient to pick up the telephone by fooling him or her into believing the caller is someone else.
The Truth in Caller ID Act was signed into law Dec. 22, 2010, prohibits caller ID spoofing for the purposes of defrauding or otherwise causing harm. In June 2010, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules implementing the Truth in Caller ID Act.
A 2012 case out of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals cited non-harmful spoofing as including a domestic-violence victim trying to hide her whereabouts or a consumer guarding his or her call-back number from a company. Unfortunately, that well-intended use has been turned around by businesses such as debt collectors, who use it to make “non-harmful” changes to their called ID signature, hoping to fool the consumer into picking up the phone.
An online search for “caller ID spoofing” returns dozens of pages of entries of companies who assist businesses in spoofing consumers. Services such as SpoofCard, offered 60 minutes of disguised calling for $9.95. If the calls are placed “with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value”, the spoofing is unlawful. Notably, using another person’s phone number, or using a fake number, is not yet seen as an act of fraud.
The FCC advises consumers to never to give out personal information over the phone. Consumer advocacy attorneys say to document calls by keeping a phone log in the event the caller is later identified as being a debt collector, because the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits such deceptive acts. Under the FDCPA, consumers are entitled to free legal help and up to $1,000 from the offending debt collector.