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    New York Times: Who’s on the Line? Increasingly, Caller ID Is Duped

    The New York Times reports on problems that people are having with individuals using technology that can “spoof” Caller ID numbers. With spoofing, the number that shows up on a call recipient’s Caller ID display is different from the actual phone number the dialer is using. (Read a previous post about the good and the bad of spoofing.)

    Caller ID has been celebrated as a defense against unwelcome phone pitches. But it is backfiring. Telemarketers increasingly are disguising their real identities and phone numbers to provoke people to pick up the phone. “Humane Soc.” may not be the Humane Society. […]

    Regulators in Wisconsin and many other states are hearing a significant jump in complaints about what is often called “caller ID spoofing” or “call laundering.”

    The rise of such tactics has prompted the Federal Trade Commission, which already prohibits telemarketers from masking their identity, to consider new rules. And last year, the Federal Communications Commission introduced rules to strengthen enforcement against the practice, and law enforcement officials in many states are working on other ways to combat it. […]

    Several federal rules prohibit forms of caller ID spoofing and laundering. Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, passed last year and enforced by the F.C.C., it is illegal to transmit inaccurate or misleading caller ID information “with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

    The F.C.C. said it has received complaints about caller ID spoofing, but declined to say whether it is investigating any of them. […]

    As laws have tightened, technology has made it easier for spoofers to cloak themselves and avoid getting caught.

    For instance, law enforcement officials say, it is easy to route a call onto the Internet and back onto the public telephone network, thereby masking the call’s origin. Companies can also use free software or inexpensive services to have a fictitious name appear on caller ID. […]

    In North Carolina, officials said they were seeing big growth in caller ID spoofing from companies promising to consolidate credit card debt and, more recently, marketers selling what they claim are inexpensive medical products to treat diabetes.

    When the state tries to trace the numbers, officials say, they wind up following a labyrinth that leads to China, Panama or the Philippines. They have also heard of cases of caller ID reading “F.B.I.” or “I.R.S.”

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