Someone used my phone number to make calls to almost everyone in our neighborhood. Someone keeps using my phone number to call strangers. Can someone use my cell phone number without my knowledge? Someone is using my phone number, how can I stop this? Have you ever known a person who complained someone has their phone number and is using it? Or have you been caught in the same situation and wondered just what to do about it?
Considering how far we’ve come technologically, you would think that people won’t be able to get away with using someone else’s number. But then again, it is that very same technology that allows people to think of and push through with such schemes. So what exactly is this scheme? Well, it’s known as phone spoofing, which we’ll discuss shortly. Also, read on to answer the questions – “Is someone using my phone number? If so, who is using my phone number and what can I do about it”
What’s Phone Spoofing?
Someone is using my cell phone number to make calls – what exactly is happening? Well, you’re likely the victim of phone spoofing. Let’s say, someone else is using my phone number to call you; in such cases, we both become victims of phone spoofing.
Phone spoofing is when a caller intentionally falsified the information, like name and number, transmitted to your caller ID. Those who conduct phone spoofing typically spoof a number from a trusted company, government agency, or any number that people know and trust. This way, people are more likely to do or give in to what the phone spoofers may request.
So to answer the question “Can someone use my phone number to call others?”, it’s a definite yes. But why do some individuals resort to phone spoofing? In essence, the act of phone spoofing is meant to hide the identity of the caller, and here are some of the reasons.
Some businesses use phone spoofing or call masking. A great example is when employees are working in the field or at home. They may use call masking to lend more credibility to their work or tasks since all phone transactions will appear to be from the official company hotline/s. There is also the matter of utilizing phone spoofing to protect the identity of the parties involved.
In some instances, phone spoofing is done to access personal information. Private investigators are the best example in this case. They spoof phone numbers to gather leads while avoiding detection.
Commit Fraud or Scams
Scammers also make use of phone spoofing in hooking victims. They persuade unknowing victims to make outrageous purchases or provide sensitive information that would allow them to access and steal the victim’s money.
Who Typically Uses Caller ID Spoofing?
Someone is calling from my number and it’s not me, so who could it be? The first thing that comes to mind would be scammers. While this may be true, other people could be spoofing phone numbers for a variety of reasons.
So if there’s someone else using your phone number, it could be one of the following:
Telemarketers often utilize real local phone numbers when calling prospective clients. Recipients tend to pick up a call if they see the caller has the same area code. Once the recipient picks up, the telemarketers will proceed to convince them to make a purchase or provide information.
Private investigators typically resort to spoofing especially when fishing for information about a case. Aside from the acquisition of data, private investigators obviously wouldn’t want to divulge their phone numbers.
If a collection agency utilizes their official number, there’s a chance people won’t answer their incoming calls. This is probably the main reason why collection agencies resort to phone spoofing.
There are also working professionals that resort to phone spoofing. They typically spoof their office phone numbers especially when they are working from home or in the field.
When you get caught in the middle of phone spoofing, it could be a real hassle. The real problem with your phone number being used by someone else is when there are scammers behind it. While you are not legally liable when your phone number is being used by someone else, you could still get the brunt of people’s irritation or anger.
Is Phone Spoofing Legal?
If someone can use my phone number to make calls, am I liable for it? Is phone spoofing illegal? Well, you will likely not be liable for any scams committed utilizing your phone number as long as it is provable you’re a victim too. As for the legality of phone spoofing, the answer is both yes and no. As previously mentioned, phone spoofing may be utilized for scams and other illegal schemes. At the same time, spoofing or phone masking is also a legitimate practice utilized by businesses.
The United States Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 states that spoofing a phone number is allowed as long as the person is not “knowingly transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value…” Once it is proven a spoof caller violated this act, their actions are considered illegal and they would have to pay the penalty of $10,000.
Phone spoofing can fall under any of the following:
Legal Phone Spoofing
Phone Spoofing is often attributed to scammers but there are legal applications or practices. Spoofing is often referred to as call masking when describing the legitimate uses of the same practice. Call masking is not only legitimate but is a beneficial customer service technique for businesses.
A business may utilize call masking by generating a phone number that will only be active immediately before and after the service. The said number will forward the call or data to the actual phone numbers. Some businesses, like online marketplaces, may utilize call masking to maintain the privacy of the buyers and sellers while still being able to transact without a hitch. Outsourced or work-at-home customer service may also utilize call masking to make it appear that the worker’s call is coming from the company’s main hotline.
Downright Illegal Phone Spoofing
Spoofing a phone number becomes illegal once there is malicious intent behind it. Illegal phone spoofing is typically committed by fraudsters and other scammers. They will deliberately falsify the data transmitted on the recipient’s caller ID to defraud others of their money or property.
Some scammers would resort to spoofing to acquire sensitive information they could utilize against a person. The data could be utilized to cause physical harm, commit blackmail, or damage a person’s reputation.
Is There A Way To Stop Someone From Using My Number?
Now that we’ve established “someone is using my cell phone number”, is there a way on how to stop someone from using my phone number? What would be the best way to deal with phone spoofing? Well, there are certain ways to address phone spoofing, like:
Change Your Number
One option would be to just change your number. This may sound easy and logical but it could be rather difficult to lose the number. It could be for sentimental reasons but also for practical reasons like the contacts you’ve accumulated through the years. It’s true you can always inform them of your new number but that could be a hassle.
Make A New Voicemail Message
One step to take is to record a new voicemail to enlighten those who have your number that your phone number has been spoofed. You can say something along the lines of “If you receive a call from this number, please know someone else has my phone number (telemarketers scammers) and is using it without my permission. Please don’t engage with them and block them for your own security.”
As more people block your number, it will eventually lose its value to spoofers. If this happens, phone spoofers will less likely continue utilizing it.
Report Them To The FCC
If someone is using my phone number, this third option is what I would personally do first. The best resort is to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission or FCC. Simply go to their website and fill in all the required information. Note that the web browsers supported include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari (the latest two versions), and Microsoft Edge (the latest version only). You may also call their hotline.
Someone using your cell number is very much possible. Whether you are bombarded with calls and text messages from possible phone spoofers or complaints from victims of spoofers using your number, you could opt to block such numbers or even change your number. It’s also best to file a complaint to help inform others about phone spoofing. While phone spoofing could be irritating, the legality or illegality of the act would still depend upon the purpose and circumstances.