male hand holding telephone receiver and dialing a phone numberMarch 30, 2020

What To Do If Someone Is Using Your Phone Number To Make Fraudulent Calls (Spoofing)

Scammers or illegal telemarketing companies often use spoofing to trick their victims into participating in their scams. If you have at some point received a suspicious call from a familiar-looking number you thought came from someone in your neighborhood, a local company or even a government agency, you have most likely been targeted by a scammer. And just like the scammer in question used a familiar phone number to ensure you pick up the phone, the same can happen to you and it can be your phone number they start using to trick other people and cause them harm. Here are some useful tips on what to do if you realize someone has been using your phone number to make fraudulent calls.

What Is Spoofing?

First, you should learn how to tell if a phone call has been spoofed. 

Spoofing is the intentional falsifying of a caller-ID to disguise the caller’s true identity. What scammers usually do is use spoofing so it looks like the incoming call comes from a number you have already seen and trust. The spoofed number may look like it belongs to your neighbor, a family member, a local business you have recently contacted or a government agency. The worst thing is, you do not even have to answer the call, sometimes scammers use robocalls only to check if the line is live so they contact you later using a script to falsely impersonate a government official or a bank employee in an attempt to steal your money or your personal information. You may even hear a voicemail informing you that you have received an important message that you can listen to if you press a button. That too is a scam. If you receive a call from an unknown number, the best thing you can do is not answer – or if you do, hang up immediately. The same applies if you get a voicemail, just ignore it. To check to whom the unknown number belongs to, you can enter the number in our search bar and get more information about the caller, but keep in mind that the owner of the number may be a victim too. 

How To Know If Your Number Is Being Spoofed?

Other than getting spoofed phone calls, your number may end up being spoofed too. One of the possible signs that a scammer is using your phone number to make spoof calls is receiving messages and calls from unknown people replying to unfamiliar correspondences. Those people will probably complain of you harassing them and demand that you stop. This is when you will know that your phone number has been spoofed.

What To Do If Your Number Gets Spoofed?

There is no quick fix when it comes to solving this problem, but there are certain measures you can take to diminish its consequences.

1. File An Official Complaint

If you suspect that your number has been used for spoofing, the first thing you should do is file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. Spoofing is illegal if the intent is to defraud, exploit or harm other individuals and punishable with up to $10,000 in fines. 

2. Try Explaining What Happened

If you start receiving angry phone calls and texts from unfamiliar numbers demanding that you stop calling them, try to explain that it was not you who called and offer them your apologies. This is not an ideal solution, but it may bring both you and the person who got calls from your number some peace of mind.

3. Change Your Voicemail Message

The best way to inform everyone about your phone number being spoofed is to record a voicemail message explaining exactly what happened and apologizing for any inconvenience caused by your unfortunate situation. You can also suggest that, for the time being, everyone blocks your number until they hear from you with other news. Once people start blocking your number, it will lose value to the spoofers and they will probably stop using it.

4. Block All Incoming Calls

If it turns out your number has been used for spoofing and you start receiving so many calls and texts that it becomes unbearable, you should consider contacting your service provider to ask about temporarily or permanently blocking all the numbers that are not on your contact list. That way, you can make sure that you only get incoming calls from known numbers you have personally approved.

The truth is, spoofers often change numbers they use so there is a good chance they will stop using yours after a while. However, if you do not wish to take any chances, you can try some or all of the methods mentioned above to speed up the process and make sure that the people affected by scammers taking over your phone number know what is going on and what to do to protect themselves against becoming victims of spoofing as well.