Caller ID “Spoofing” To Become Illegal

Well, it’s about time…

In April 2010, the House passed the “Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010” (pdf). The bill, which passed the Senate last February, makes it illegal “to cause any caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, with the intent to defraud or deceive.” Congress has been tooling with different versions of the law since 2007.

Using a false caller ID (termed “spoofing”) has long been a way for unscrupulous debt collectors to reach consumers, their friends and families regarding alleged debts under false pretenses. Here’s how it generally works: The collector calls from a telephone number of one of the references the consumer provided in his or her application for credit. The consumer picks up the phone, thinking it is a call from a friend or family member (“Hi, Mom…”). “Gotcha!”, says the debt collector, “You can run but you can’t hide from us.”

We have always maintained that spoofing is unlawful under the fair debt collection laws. This new law makes it a crime.

As Ars Technica explains, there are some exceptions, including blocking your own outgoing caller ID info, and law enforcement. But consider the reach of the law, which extends to VoIP providers, services increasingly used by debt collectors because they make it more difficult to trace phone numbers.

Look for the new law to become effective shortly.

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