What is Phone Spoofing?
Phone spoofing occurs when callers change the caller ID on their phones to appear as someone else. More often than not, this is done to commit fraud and phone scams. Scammers may falsify their numbers and name to appear as government agencies, private organizations, or even someone the victim knows.
When used to trick or harass an individual into giving up private information, phone spoofing is considered illegal in America. For South Dakotans, such calls may bear the area code 605, making it appear local. Meanwhile, the caller may be miles away. Scammers find it easier to use phone spoofing because they may pose as any governmental agency. They may pose as officials of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), for instance, and collect personal details of their victims without suspicion.
Why Is Phone Spoofing Illegal?
Not all phone spoofing leads to a phone scam, as doctors and government security agencies sometimes use phone spoofing services legitimately. However, in South Dakota, there are laws and preventive measures against phone spoofing. Phone scams are becoming harder to spot, and with tricks like phone spoofing, many people are falling victim. Phone spoofing makes telemarketing scams like IRS scams, robocall scams, grandparents scams, and lottery more convincing. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has intensified its resolve to clamp down such scams in partnership with state authorities.
How Do You Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?
A person’s phone is probably spoofed if any of the following occurs:
- The person starts getting multiple texts and calls from numbers they never contacted
- If the person receives incessant calls from unknown callers asking for their identities or continuing a conversation they never initiated, especially if such calls are accompanied by threats or insults with the request to stop bothering them.
People whose numbers have been spoofed receive tons of unsolicited calls and texts from numbers they never contacted. Such calls may be from numbers the scammer used their line to spoof-call. This could get frustrating for victims, especially if their phone numbers were used to defraud others. To avoid being implicated for a crime you did not commit, do a voicemail explaining to potential callers that you are not responsible for fraudulent calls and texts that they may have received with your contact.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Illegal Spoofed Calls?
The best way to protect oneself from these illegally spoofed calls is to try to prevent them. Here are some of the tips residents can use to protect themselves from illegally spoofed calls.
- Block numbers that are not on phone books or contact lists.
- Do not answer unknown callers and phone numbers. Once a call appears to be fraudulent, hang up immediately.
- Download caller ID apps like Truecaller. These applications help people identify their callers when they call.
- Use online phone lookup services and reverse phone number search tools to get information about suspicious landline and mobile phone numbers. Some phone lookup services may even display criminal records and the address of the caller.
- Do not follow instructions from unknown numbers. Sometimes, the calls might be a robocall and may instruct people to press a number on their phone to move ahead. Do not follow such instructions.
- Register residential and business numbers on the National Do Not Call List to stop unsolicited telemarketing calls and robocalls. That way, illegal spoof callers will easily be flagged and reported to relevant authorities.
- File a complaint with the FCC if illegal telemarketing calls persist after registering on the Do Not Call registry.
- Do not give out your contact information carelessly on online platforms.
- Verify phone calls from government agencies and businesses by hanging up and calling the numbers on your account statement. One may also find phone numbers of government organizations and businesses on their websites or a phonebook.
- If a company or government representative pressures or threatens you over the phone to make payments, hang-up and report such numbers.
- Protect personal details like social security number, mother’s maiden name, and passwords. Never disclose any of these over the phone, as they may be used to defraud victims.
Does South Dakota Have Anti-Spoofing Laws?
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is charged with regulating telecommunications companies in the State of South Dakota. However, the PUC has limited resources for culprits outside of the state or even the country. But there are laws set up to guide telemarketers’ affairs and protect the customers in the state from phone scams.
According to the Unreasonable Solicitor Practices, telemarketers should not do the following:
- Engage in unfair or deceptive telephone solicitation;
- Place unsolicited consumer telephone calls to any residence which will be received before 9 am or after 9 pm at the consumer's local time or place any unsolicited consumer telephone calls on Sunday;
- Engage in any conduct that harasses, intimidates, or torments the call recipient.
People who violate these laws with the intention to defraud are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to such laws, the Truth in Caller ID Act helps protect phone users from scams and illegal phone spoofing.
What are Common Phone Scams Involving Caller ID Spoofing in South Dakota?
Some of the common phone scams that scammers perpetuate by hiding their caller ID in South Dakota include:
- Grand-Parent Phone Scam: The elderly are the main targets of this scam. Scammers spoof their caller ID to appear as a grandchild of the victim who has been arrested or hospitalized. They may sometimes pose as law enforcement officers or doctors demanding bail or hospital bills to be wired. This scam may be hard to spot, considering that the caller ID appears as though it is the victim’s relative calling. It is best to refrain from sending money before verifying it from other relatives, such as the child’s parents. If the call appears suspicious, hang up immediately, report, and block the number.
- IRS Scam: Here, scammers disguise their caller ID to look like they are IRS officials. They may tell the victims that they owe taxes and threaten them with arrest or deportation if they do not pay. Sometimes, they may even quote the personal details of the victim to appear genuine. However, people ought to know that the IRS does not call individuals over the phone concerning payment of taxes. The IRS will also not ask them to pay via wire, gift cards, or any other immediate and quick payment methods.
- Utility Payment Scam: This involves a spoof call appearing as a Utility company and demanding payment for an unpaid utility bill. They may sometimes threaten victims with disconnection if immediate payments are not made.
Although utility companies may reach customers over the phone concerning unpaid bills, they do not demand immediate payments on the phone. To verify, recipients should contact their companies through the numbers found on their utility bills. Another way is to check the utility company’s website for contact numbers listed there.
- Jury Duty and Warrant Scams: In this case, scammers pose as officials from the sheriff's office or police department and try to instill fear in the victim. The scammers will accuse victims of neglecting their jury duties and demand that they pay fines over the phone. However, it is noteworthy that law enforcement agencies will only direct defaulters to their local police station to pay any fine.
- Tech Support Scams: Tech support scams may involve a scammer calling you with a number that falsely identifies as that of Microsoft or Apple. They diagnose false issues on the victim's device and then convince them to give up personal details over the phone like their computer or phone's password. Sometimes they direct them to dubious websites and make them click links that install malware into the victim's device, giving them control of it.