Have you been receiving strange phone calls or text messages recently?
Or, have you been receiving angry phone calls from strangers about scam messages you allegedly sent?
If you have a shiver running down your spine right now, thinking, “Someone is sending texts from my phone number! HOW?!”
Don’t worry! You’re not alone.
Thousands of people in the US (and internationally) have their numbers hijacked to send scam messages- and even to make dodgy phone calls.
This type of scam is called Caller ID spoofing or number spoofing. It is a very efficient method for scammers to steal personal and financial information.
But, how are they doing this?
Sadly, it’s relatively easy for scammers that know what they’re doing (which, frequently, they do).
In this article, we’ll go through exactly what spoofing is, how it’s carried out, and the ways in which you can protect yourself from it!
Is It Possible For Someone To Be Sending Texts From My Phone Number?
Yes, it’s definitely possible for someone to send texts from your phone number without you knowing.
This technique and scam is known as “Caller ID spoofing”.
What is Caller ID spoofing?
Caller ID spoofing occurs when a person knowingly gives false information to the Caller ID feature on your phone in order to hide their real identity.
In most cases, scammers will use local spoofing to make it look like the incoming phone call is being made from a local number.
In some situations, the incoming phone call can even look like it’s coming from a government agency or a local company that you’re already familiar with!
If you answer any of these calls, you’ll often hear a scripted scam that the criminal will use to try to steal your personal information or money.
If you suspect that your number has been spoofed, report it immediately to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Methods Of Message Spoofing
Scammers can use a variety of different methods and techniques for Caller ID spoofing.
Voice over IP is the most common method for Caller ID scammers to utilize, as abusers can effortlessly use an open-source VoIP tool to achieve what they want.
They can even create a VoIP provider account to replace their number with a false number they want to be displayed instead.
When the scammer has put in place the phone numbers that they want to be shown, they can then create and pull off scams of a huge scale.
With this method, the scammer can spoof any phone number that is present and available in their database.
In most cases, scammers will also use technology to change the name that is shown on Caller ID.
They can do this most with pretty much anyone’s name and phone number without having to worry about their real identity being discovered.
VoIP providers that have the feature that allows users to use a false name and number will display that information to the person that’s being called or messaged.
Unfortunately, the potential victims being shown false information won’t normally suspect a thing!
What Does A Scammer Need To Spoof Your Number?
There is a common misconception that scammers can only use a mobile phone to spoof your number. While this can be the case, this isn’t always true.
Scammers don’t even need a phone to send spam messages in most cases.
Spoofing can be achieved with almost any piece of equipment, such as:
- Laptop or computer
- Android device
- Android phone
There are some cases where scammers can even hack certain apps and send spoofed messages from there!
These apps can include iMessage, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and a myriad of other messaging apps.
Caller ID spoofing can also be carried on any smartphone operating system, including Windows, Android, or iOS.
They won’t just stick to calling from an unknown number either; frequently they will utilize SMS messaging and calling that appears to be coming from a trusted business, such as a credit card company!
Why Would Someone Spoof My Phone Number?
More often than not, when your number is spoofed it’s for nefarious purposes.
As already explained above, number spoofing is used to send spam messages or to make phone calls under a different identity.
There are plenty of reasons why scammers will spoof phone numbers.
Con artists can use number spoofing methods to attain personal and financial information and scam people out of their hard-earned money.
Other malicious reasons can include impersonating another person, or even intimidating, harass, or stalk unfortunate victims.
Obviously, it’s illegal for people to use spoofing for these malicious purposes, and depending on the situation the scammers could face criminal charges.
If someone uses spoofing to harass, stalk, or even for intimidation, you may be able to lay a civil charge against them (if you can find out their true identity, that is).
Some states in the US will have stricter laws and stronger protections surrounding this act, so the best thing to do would be to check your state’s specific laws on this topic.
How To Stop Someone From Spoofing Your Phone Number
Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to stop a scammer from using your phone number for malicious purposes.
This is because your number is likely readily available in numerous lists and databases built up over the years, and as long as bad actors have that information and the proper software they’ll be able to spoof any number they want!
So, really the only method to stop someone from spoofing your phone number is to change to a new number entirely (and to inform those around you that you’ve done so, that they’re aware).
Once you have a new number, be extremely careful about handing it out willy-nilly all over the place.
Being cautious with your phone number means only giving your phone number to family members and close friends. Never share your phone number on social media and public forums!
Also consider acquiring a Google Voice number when you sign up for things online, as this will prevent your real phone number from accumulating on lists all over the web.
How To Protect Yourself From Spoofing Scams
Sadly, there isn’t a surefire way to protect your number from being the victim of Caller ID spoofing either; there just isn’t one method that will work 100% of the time!
Despite that, there are still ways in which you can protect yourself as much as possible.
One of the first things you can do to protect yourself from scammers is to download an SMS blocker.
While it won’t prevent scammers from spoofing your number, it can help you to avoid becoming a victim as the blocker will be able to prevent suspicious text messages from ever reaching you.
Another possible step for protecting your number is to contact your service provider, as they can often be your first, base-level line of defense against a scammer that’s intent on spoofing your number.
Speak to your cellular provider about blocking unknown text messages to protect you from being harassed by strangers.
Always screen any incoming phone calls coming from strange numbers that aren’t on your contact list.
Additionally, immediately block anyone who emails, texts, or calls you with spam material. Never engage!
(The same applies to video calls and social media: Don’t ever use Snapchat or Facetime to communicate with people you don’t know.)
One final thing you can do to protect yourself is to report any suspicious activity that you’ve noticed.
If you know or are able to find out the identity of a scammer, you can potentially bring anyone who has threatened or harassed you via spoofing to court.
You may be able to lay a civil or criminal case against them, which could land them in jail for their troubles. In many cases, the expensive costs of a civil trial will deter scammers from continuing.
As the FCC reports, a scammer once faced a possible $225 million fine for creating close to one billion robocalls that made false claims with illegally spoofed numbers!
TLDR; Key Points
Can I tell if a number is spoofed?
In most cases, you probably won’t be able to tell for sure if a scammer has spoofed a number to make calls or send text messages.
A good rule of thumb therefore is simply not to answer phone calls from unknown numbers and let these calls go to voicemail instead!
What does it mean to have your number spoofed?
What does it mean when we talk about someone spoofing your phone number?
Number spoofing is where a person (often unlawfully) hides their number and displays another phone number in its place.
Scammers can easily hide their number by using VoIP services. By spoofing your number, these abusers and scammers make your number show up in the Caller ID instead of their own.
Can you prevent someone from spoofing your number?
Unfortunately in most cases, you won’t know that someone has spoofed your number until it’s too late!
By then, your number had already been abused. If a scammer was able to spoof your number, it means that they had access to your information already- as well as possess all of the necessary equipment.
All you can really do once someone has spoofed your number is to make a formal complaint with the FCC, check your messages and voicemail, check your bill for monetary damage, and change your number.
Can you find out who spoofed you?
Sadly, there’s a very slim chance that you’ll be able to find out the person who has spoofed your number. It’s likely they’re not even in the same country!
Scammers and abusers that spoof numbers are able to hide behind the hundreds and sometimes even thousands of fake identities.
All they really require to spoof that many phone numbers is the right set of equipment. With advanced tech at their fingertips, they really don’t have much to be worried about when it comes to being unmasked.
If by some miracle you can find out who really spoofed your number, then there’s a chance that you may be able to file a criminal case against the scammer.
They could end up being fined and even be sent to jail- IF you can find their real identity and location, that is!
Unfortunately, number spoofing or Caller ID spoofing is a relatively simple and convenient method for scammers to access people’s personal information and rob people of their hard-earned money.
It doesn’t just harm the people receiving the text messages; spoofing also affects the people whose numbers were used without their knowledge or consent.
For these victims, there are some methods that they can use to protect themselves- though it may mean an unpleasant outcome in changing their phone number entirely.
If you do decide to change your phone number, be very careful with it. Only give it out to close friends, family, and business associates as necessary- never reveal it publicly!
If you need to sign up for something online, get yourself a Google Voice account and use that number instead of your real one.
Sadly, even these methods aren’t entirely foolproof as it’s likely inevitable that your phone number ends up on some list again in the future.
However, just being aware and protecting yourself as much as possible can go a long way in making sure you’re not harmed as a victim of these spoofing scams!
Do you know how to stay safe on your smartphone? Keep yourself protected with our Comprehensive A-Z Of Smartphone Security right HERE!