Spoofed Robocalls—Is There a Way to Avoid Them?
There is a thing more annoying than a robocall, and that’s a spoofed robocall. Most of us learned not to answer an unknown number because it will probably be a spam call with a dodgy offer that no one in their right mind would consider. Enter spoofing, and we are back at the beginning because the numbers are no longer unknown, so we are easily tricked into answering.
Most unsolicited calls we receive are spoofed, which is why so many robocalls still get answered. The latest technological developments show promising results in identifying and blocking spoofed numbers. The fight against robocalls will be long and challenging because the same advanced technology is available to robocallers as well.
What Is Spoofing?
Spoofing is a technique that robocallers use to hide the real phone number that they are calling from, and mask it as a:
- Familiar number
- Local number
- Official number (a number of a well-known company or a government agency)
It’s the number one trick in the robocall handbook because people are more inclined to pick up if they believe that the call is coming from a neighbor, local business, an acquaintance, or a reputable establishment.
Although you will probably realize that the call is fake pretty quickly, robocallers scratched the first thing off their list—you answered your phone. With all negative publicity that robocalls get, getting people to pick up became quite a challenge. Spoofing seems to be working flawlessly because the number of robocalls made annually is more than 58 billion according to the Robocall Index.
How Do Robocalls Spoof Numbers?
Spoofing a number used to be an expensive and complicated operation, but with various open-source software available now, it is quite affordable and simple. There are different ways to spoof a number, and they depend on the type of phone the robocallers are using.
Spoofing apps offer the following options:
- PIN Spoofing
- Spoofing by a third party
Spoofing with a PIN (Personal Identification Number) means that the caller pays the service provider for a PIN that they will use as a code for spoofing. It’s not a demanding process at all:
- The caller dials a phone number provided by the spoofing app
- The caller enters their PIN
- The caller enters the destination number
- They add the number they would like to appear on the recipient’s screen
Spoofing Interface and Apps
The caller pays for login credentials that allow access to a mobile app or a web-based spoofing interface. When robocallers make a spoofed robocall, they log on, enter their source number, destination number, and the number they wish to appear on the screen.
The designated server makes calls to both numbers and connects them into one call. The caller ID appears as the number that the caller chose.
Is Spoofing Illegal?
Spoofing is not illegal in the States, which makes it hard to put a stop to the practice altogether. The restrictions apply to telemarketers, and according to the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, it is illegal to transmit false caller IDs to scam the recipients or trick them into answering.
A caller may use spoofing for:
- Personal reasons
- Calling a client from a home number hidden behind a company number
The Truth in Caller ID Act was updated in 2019 and is now applicable to international calls and text messages.
Are Spoofed Robocalls Illegal?
Spoofed robocalls are absolutely illegal. Although some robocalls are allowed, using the spoofing technique to mask the caller’s number when making a robocall is prohibited. Any business or institution that uses robocalls for informational or promotional services must disclose its real phone number.
When it comes to robocalls, the legitimate ones usually come from:
- Political campaigns that use automated calls to present their programs and motivate the voters
- Educational institutions that need to make important announcements regarding changes in opening times
- Pharmacies, clinics, and other healthcare professionals that use it as reminders and notifications
- Charities that use robocalls to inform people how to donate money for various causes
- The Internal Revenue Service that uses robocalls to announce important policy alterations or to remind citizens about tax-deadlines
All telemarketing companies must have your written permission to include you in their calling lists. They also have to let you know that robocalls are used in their marketing campaigns. You are allowed to remove your number from the list whenever you like.
How to Recognize a Spoofed Robocall?
The problem is that you can’t recognize a spoofed robocall, at least not before you answer it. That is the whole point of spoofing. Since robocalls are becoming increasingly unpopular, the callers came up with spoofing to trick people into picking up.
Once you do answer the phone, the robocall will continue as usual. You will hear a recorded message offering a fantastic deal, a huge discount, or something extremely tempting. Follow the same logic you apply to calls from unknown numbers—hang up as soon as you realize that it’s a robocall.
The table below shows some of the common robocall scams that tend to use spoofed numbers.
The IRS official number
The utility provider’s official number
How to Handle Spoofed Robocalls?
You should be aware that just because the number appears as local or coming from a reputable company, it doesn’t mean that you should trust the caller. Some robocallers go so far as to imitate government agency or utility provider numbers to gain your trust.
There are many tricks that scam callers use to get what they want, and they are always after your money or personal information that can be sold. Robocall scams can be quite elaborate, so try to follow these useful tips in case you end up on a robocall:
- Try not to speak at all, and especially avoid answering questions with yes and no. Fraudsters can record your voice and use it to authorize transactions with voice commands
- Don’t disclose any of your details. Some calls are meant to get a hold of your financial information, but your Social Security number can also be valuable, so keep your data to yourself
- Don’t press any numbers even if the caller says that you will be taken off the calling list. Some robocalls are designed to check if the number is active, and if so, sell the valid number to other fraudsters for thousands of dollars
Neighbor Robocalls—Robocalls Spoofing Local Numbers
Spoofing local numbers is an effective way to get people to pick up, but it causes many problems to both the recipients of the calls and to the people whose numbers get spoofed.
Robocall technology needs just a few numbers to spot the pattern and generate thousands of numbers from the same area code. Fraudsters use automated dialers to make hundreds of spoofed calls to that area. This means that you can be the victim of a robocall if:
- You receive a robocall
- Your number is spoofed
The second possibility is equally unpleasant. If your number appears on an unwanted call, you may be subject to lawsuits. You can also end up on a blacklist of your friends and neighbors, and you won’t be able to reach them in case of an emergency.
How to Stop Spoofed Robocalls?
With the robocall plague affecting every American with a phone, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with low-enforcers and phone carriers, are working hard to find a cure.
The FCC guide to robocalls says that they rank first among all complaints filed to the Commission. That is why various legislative and technological solutions are being implemented to reduce the number of scam calls.
Along with the Truth in Caller ID and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the TRACED Act is an important weapon in the war against robocalls. This Act represents the joint effort of the FCC, the law-enforcers, and telephone service providers to put an end to robocalls.
The most important aspects of the TRACED Act are:
- The FCC received more extensive authority to go after phone scammers and to propose high penalties for illegal robocalling
- The Justice Department is encouraged to prosecute robocallers with the evidence provided by the FCC
- The carriers are allowed to implement technology that blocks robocalls, prevents spoofing, and reports suspicious numbers to the FCC
Spoofing has a special place in the Act because a new technology called SHAKEN/STIR should allow the carriers to prevent illegal spoofing for good. Hiding your caller ID is still legal, according to the TRACED Act.
How to Stop Spoofed Robocalls on Your Cell Phone?
All carriers in the States offer robocall blockers. As the law mandates them to add spam-blocking tools to all users for free, one of these filters has probably been activated on your number already.
If you are still receiving robocalls on your mobile phone, check with your carrier if the robocall-blocking service is active on your account. While the basic version is free of charge, all providers have premium plans that come with a fee but can offer additional protection from robocalls.
There are various third-party apps that you can download to add one more line of defense against fraudsters. Most of these tools and apps are pretty successful in detecting fraudulent numbers, even if they hide behind legitimate businesses and organizations.
You should know that it’s impossible to block robocalls entirely, so one or two will still manage to get through. SHAKEN/STIR advocates say that it helps reduce robocalls to a level of statistical error.
Most of the available call filters provide one of the following options:
- Robocalls can be blocked without notifications
- They can be sent directly to voicemail
- They can be allowed to ring silently with a spam-alert flag
- Robocalls can be directed to the missed calls list where you can check them
Blocking Spoofed Robocalls on Your Home Phone
How to stop robocalls on your home phone depends on the type of landline you use. There are two variants:
- Traditional landline
- Digital home phone
Traditional landlines are convenient for robocall scammers because you can’t do much to protect them. You can activate one of the call-blocking services or get a call-blocking device.
Both options rely on blacklists or whitelists to fight spam. Blacklists are compiled of numbers you don’t want to receive calls from, while whitelists contain the numbers that are allowed to reach you.
Spoofing makes both lists inefficient because the fraudulent numbers are masked. Many robocallers turned to landlines due to the fact that it’s challenging to get adequate protection on them.
Digital Home Phones
Digital home phones use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which means that they are internet-based. This allows most services that you use on your cell phone to be activated on your digital home phone as well.
Most Americans switched to internet-based phones, so you should check with your carrier what kind of a home phone you have and whether you can shift to VoIP technology for better robocall protection.
You can check what options are available for different phones in the table below.
Type of Phone
Phone carrier robocall blockers
Call-blocking external devices
Reporting Spoofed Robocalls
You should always make sure to report spoofed robocalls or any other spam calls. Many tools used to fight unsolicited calls rely on reports from consumers to be efficient. You can contribute to putting an end to the robocall pest for good.
The first thing to do is to register on the National Do Not Call List. It prevents telemarketers from calling you and reduces the number of sales calls you get. The List is not helpful when it comes to robocall scams because fraudsters don’t care about the law, but it’s a starting point in fighting call harassment. For additional reading about the Do Not Call List, check out these useful articles:
There are different ways to report robocalls, so in case you do get a spoofed call, make sure to address your complaint to one of the following:
By reporting spoofed robocalls, you can help the officials, but you can also help the people whose numbers have been used for spoofing.
DoNotPay Can Help With Spoofed Robocalls
DoNotPay takes a different approach to fighting robocalls. Our fantastic app can help you get your robocall revenge by taking up to $3,000 from those nasty robocallers. The best part is that the whole thing is super simple and safe. This is how it works:
- Log on DoNotPay in your web browser or iOS app as soon as you receive a spoofed robocall
- Choose RoboRevenge from the menu
- Create a free virtual credit card
- Reveal the VCC details to the caller when they ask for them
- Wait for them to try to charge you so that DoNotPay can extract their information
- File a robocall lawsuit following the instructions from DoNotPay
The DoNotPay virtual credit card will appear to the caller as a real card, but it is just a card number without any real funding source behind it. Your financial data is also unavailable to the caller, so there is nothing to fear in terms of privacy.
Robocallers are not supposed to call you, let alone spoof numbers or make illegal transactions, so there are many reasons for a successful lawsuit. If your number is not on the DoNotCall List, the app will put it there automatically.
Spoofed numbers are not safe from RoboRevenge because DoNotPay will get a hold of the caller’s data through the attempted transaction. A hidden number will not be much of a protection from RoboRevenge.
What Else Can DoNotPay Do?
DoNotPay can help with various issues that require the services of a legal consultant. The app uses AI to assist people who are struggling with paying bills, lowering bills, getting refunds, and many more.
- Jumping the phone queue when getting in touch with customer service reps
- Fighting speeding tickets
- Contesting parking tickets
- Getting refunds for delayed or canceled flights
- Dealing with issues with credit cards
- Canceling subscriptions or memberships
- Disputing traffic tickets
- Getting revenge on other robocalls
- Suing people and companies in small claims court
- Scheduling a DMV appointment fast and easy
- Dealing with bills you are unable to pay