Telephone Spoofing Bill Introduced in Congress

In telecom networks, “spoofing” is the practice of misrepresenting the caller ID of a phone call. It is a practice often used by criminals trying to commit telecom fraud.

On September 9, the US House of Representatives passed legislation aimed at stopping the practice of spoofing. The bipartisan bill, HR 3670, was sponsored by Grace Meng (D-NY), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). The law has now been introduced in the Senate.

Currently, under the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, it is illegal to spoof a caller ID with the intent to conduct fraud or cause other harm. However, it is not against the law to engage in “non-harmful spoofing.” This could include a consumer withholding a call-back number from a company, or even a victim of domestic violence hiding their whereabouts.

Since 2009, the telecom landscape has evolved and fraudsters have developed new technology to circumvent the law. The new legislation would “expand and clarify” the law to explicitly prohibit three new categories of calls:

  • Foreigners spoofing phone numbers when calling US consumers
  • VoIP services that enable callers to make outgoing-only calls to landline phones
  • Text Messaging

“Scammers are using technology to work around an outdated law, and the practice of spoofing needs to be stopped,” said Rep. Joe Barton in a statement. “This bill will broaden protections for consumers by holding spoofing companies outside the US accountable, and including IP-enabled voice services.”

The Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, but has not yet taken official action. The bill will likely not be considered until after mid-term elections in November.