New FCC rules are meant to crack down on fraudulent or deceptive uses of Caller ID, which the agency says is a growing problem:
Increasingly, bad actors are altering or manipulating caller ID information—known as caller ID spoofing—to further a wide variety of malicious schemes, from identity theft to placing false emergency calls to SWAT teams. Using spoofing services accessible through the web or prepaid cards, anyone can inexpensively mask the origin of a call with fake caller identification information.
Under the new rules, which implement last year's Truth in Caller ID Act, violators are subject to up to $10,000 for each incident, or $30,000 for each day of continuing violation, up to a maximum of $1 million for any continuing violation.
That's a sizable penalty - if the bad actors get caught. But the FCC's announcement and blog entry largely beg a key question that I hear about repeatedly from readers: If your Caller ID gives little or no information, or gives deceptive information, what can you actually do to report a violation? You can't exactly call and say, "I got a call from this number, and they broke the rule," as you can, say, to report a do-not-call violation. Consumers find these situations especially frustrating because there's no clear way to respond when Caller ID comes up blank, or appears to give deceptive information.
I asked how to cope with these practical issues, and here's how an FCC official responded:
As to blocked numbers:
Regular callers are allowed to block their numbers, and that is not a violation of the Act.
But, under our rules, adopted pursuant to the TCPA and confirmed in the Truth in Caller ID Act rulemaking, telemarketers are not allowed to block their numbers.
So if a consumer gets a telemarketing call with no number displayed, we would like them to complain to us – to do that effectively they do need to talk to the telemarketer long enough to get information about who was calling them and for what purpose. The more information, the better from an enforcement perspective.
As to spoofed numbers:
If a number does appear, there is not a technical way to determine the number has been altered but there are warning flags.
For example: If the caller claims to be from a financial institution, a utility company, or the government and asks for financial account information, social security numbers or other personal information – the consumer should assume that the caller is up to no good, should not provide that information and should file a complaint with us.
Or, if a person is being stalked or harassed by someone they know, and the stalker is using caller ID spoofing, the person being harassed will realize what is going on and should file a complaint with us.
Where to complain? Call 1-888-CALL-FCC, or go to fcc.gov/complaints.