Are you worried that someone is using your phone number to make calls or send text messages? You’ll probably think you are losing your mind but it is more common than you might think.
This is known as phone spoofing. And it really happens!
I’ll explain everything you need to know about how this can be done, who is doing it and then I’ll talk about how you can stop phone spoofing your number. Although it is not easy to stop you do have a few things to try.
So let’s get started.
Understanding Phone Spoofing
Also called caller ID spoofing, phone spoofing is essentially when a caller falsifies details that appear on the caller ID of the recipient such as the number and name and makes it seem that a call is coming from another number.
The caller usually displays a phone number that they think the recipient is most likely to answer.
Sometimes, scammers may even spoof phone numbers of legitimate banks, government agencies and insurance providers to convince people to buy something, pay money or reveal personal information.
The majority of phone spoofing will be done trying to impersonate these institutions not someone’s personal phone number. However with some marketing scams they will target individuals phone numbers just to have anonymity. They want to hide their activities behind your number and identity.
A less common case when someone uses your phone number can come from some spy software apps. Some of these give the hacker full access to your phone and they can send SMS text messages and even make phone calls using your phone!
Who Uses Phone Spoofing and Is It Legal?
Typically, phone spoofing is used by working professionals like doctors, telemarketers, collection agencies and private investigators who may use number spoofing or number masking for their work, when they need to make professional calls while traveling, from home, etc.
They use phone spoofing when they don’t want their real location or number to be divulged, to collect information, convince people to purchase products/services, etc. In all these situations, phone spoofing is legal.
However, there are circumstances where phone spoofing may be used by scammers to cheat or defraud people.
According to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), “phone spoofing is illegal if the caller has intentions to harm, defraud or obtain anything of value illegally from the recipient of the call and in these cases, the person found guilty of phone spoofing may be fined an amount of up to $10,000 for every call”.
Dangers of Phone Spoofing
Often, phone spoofing is a common method used by scammers to defraud people and trick them into revealing their personal information, parting with money or sometimes, both. Vishing (voice phishing) attacks are very common forms of phone spoofing.
The scammer may pretend that they are calling from a charity, bank or contest offering a fake prize. For example, the call may seem as if it is coming from the IRS to scare the recipient to reveal their personal information or pay money as part of back taxes.
Another common instance of phone spoofing scams is false tech support calls, where the caller pretends to be calling from a reputable company like Microsoft claiming that there is a problem with your computer and asking you to give them remote access to fix the issue.
Another form of scam is SMiShing attacks or phishing attacks through SMS text messages, where you get a message appearing to be from a reputable company or person asking you to click on a provided link.
However, when you do this, you may end up downloading some malware onto your device that may steal your information, credentials or even money.
How Do I Know That Someone Is Using My Phone Number?
In many cases you probably will not be aware of it. If you are lucky there are a few things that may give it away. Some of the signs that your phone number is being used by someone is when you:
- Get text messages or calls responding to some communication not initiated by you.
- Receive texts asking who you are.
- Receive calls from people asking you to stop calling and bothering them.
As always with phone behavior you don’t want to rely on a one off occurence. If this is happening regularly then you might have a problem with someone using your phone number without your knowledge.
How to Stop Someone Using my Phone Number?
While there may be no single and easy solution to discover if someone is using your phone number to spoof calls you do have some options. Here are a few ways to stop someone from using your phone number in spoofing scams:
Contact Your Service Provider
This should be your first step. Your service provider may be able to help you depending on the tech that the scammers are using. At the very least they will have your complaint on record so that you are protected from any legal issues.
Record a New Voicemail Message
You can record a voicemail message that tells people that your phone number has been spoofed and that if they receive a call from your number, then it may be from someone who is using the phone number without your permission and that they should not engage with them and block them for their safety.
When more and more people start blocking your number, then the person(s) using your number will eventually stop using the number as it will no longer have any value for them.
If the number of texts and calls is becoming a nuisance, then you could resort to blocking all the numbers that are not in your contacts list either permanently or just temporarily.
However, if you don’t want to do this, you can block phone numbers that are very similar to your number. The blocking option ensures that your number is open for calls from all your contacts.
Get a New Number
While getting a new number may sound the most logical and easiest option to prevent phone spoofing, in reality, it is quite difficult to do for both practical, as well as sentimental reasons.
You can inform all your contacts about your changed phone number but it can be a time consuming and cumbersome process.
Report to the FCC
If you find out that someone is using your phone number, the best solution is to file a complaint with the FCC. You can either go onto the FCC website and fill in all the required information or call their helpline to file your complaint.
Spoofing from a Spy App
If you think they are using your number through a spy app there are a few things you can do. I deal with a lot of information in the security section of this website. Start with my guide on ways to find spy apps on your phone. It lists signs that you may have been targeted using spy software apps.
Then see how to remove phone spy software apps – the good news is that this is easy!
How Can I Stop Spoof Calls to My Phone Number?
I’ve talked about how others can use you phone number to make spoof calls that look like you made them. But what about if you are being targeted by spoofing calls? They are difficult to stop but you do have a few things you can try.
Reverse Search the Number via Google Search
You can use Google to do a reverse search on the phone number by typing the spoofed phone number into the Google search bar and check if the number takes you to any company or website.
There are reverse phone search tools that let you find out the caller’s details such as their name, address, etc. If you receive a call from a number with your area code, a reverse phone number search can reveal if the caller is genuine or is just using a spoofed phone number.
Blocking Numbers May Not Help
While blocking texts and calls from a spoofed number may seem to be the best option; however, blocking spoofed numbers doesn’t really work. People using a spoofing service to spoof a phone number can easily generate multiple fake numbers that they can use and so blocking may not work.
Don’t Depend on the Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry
While you can apply to the National DNC Registry to block the spoofed phone numbers and this may be helpful in limiting spoofed phone calls; however, this is not a dependable solution.
Typically, the DNC Registry prevents legitimate companies from making unwanted sales calls to you only. Spam callers and telemarketers can still contact you via spoofed phone numbers.
Use a Fake Phone Number App
You can make use of a fake phone number app or a 2nd phone number to stop spoofing phone numbers by ensuring that when you’re calling someone, your phone number remains unknown.
There are fake phone number apps such as Phoner, Burner or Hushed that offer 2nd phone numbers which you can use to make your calls and also send text messages. By doing this, you can hide your real phone number and prevent it from being spoofed.
The Final Word
As you see, it can get complicated. Are you wanting to stop getting bothered by these fake call scams from companies using phone spoofing? Or are you trying to stop these actors from using your phone number in these scams?
Either way I have covered some things that should work for you. And now at least you know all about phone spoofing and what to look out for.