Use *57 To Trace Spoofed Caller IDs

The phone rang and the caller ID showed a local number. Even though I’m aware of “neighbor spoofing”, a popular devious and fraudulent trick used by telemarketers, I uncharacteristically answered it instead of letting it go to the answering machine.

“Hello,” I said, which was followed by silence on the other end. I was about to hang up when a voice, obviously a recorded message reading from a script, said something to the effect that my credit was fine but I was to press 1 to contact a representative to setup a plan to pay off my credit card debt or I could lose my high credit rating.

Deciding to play along I pressed 1 knowing full well that all the telemarketer knew about me was my phone number. They probably did not know my name much less my credit history or which credit cards I use. They were obviously fishing.

A real person finally came on the line and started their spiel which I interrupted by asking the name of their company which they denied to provide. I then asked what their real phone number is so I could, ostensibly, call them back. This request was also ignored. After some additional prodding for information they finally hung up on me.

The telemarketing person stayed on message and protected their anonymity thus thwarting my efforts to get real information on them to report this abuse to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and local authorities; reporting a spoofed phone number to the FTC or FCC will do no good and I’m not sure even reporting real data will result in any legal action even as a violation of the Do-Not-Call registry. The telemarketers know that and count on it but we still have to try.

There must be a way to track down these swindlers, I thought.

After a bit of research I found that dialing *57 after the telemarketing call will trace the call to its true source. Great, I thought, so I gave it a try. Sadly the process is not so easy.

According to Techwalla the process summarized as follows is:
1. Dial *57 immediately after hanging up the telemarketing call.
2. The phone service will tell you that the trace was successful. There will be a charge for this service and worst of all, because of legal reasons, you will not get the actual number.
3. Contact your phone service provider to receive an authorization form.
4. Contact your local police department reporting the date and time of the offending call. They will work with the phone company to start an investigation.

There must be a better way

It’s disturbing that it is so easy for fraudsters to use the phone to annoy us yet it is so difficult for us to retaliate or prevent this abuse.

There must be a way to prevent caller ID spoofing, but spoofing is legal on the grounds that some people need to keep their location secret, women’s abuse shelters, for example. But they could use *67 to block their caller ID. Of course this opens up a whole new can of worms. What if the scammers used *67? This would defeat the whole purpose of identifying these scammers true identity. But at least if the caller ID shows blocked you would know not to answer.

A better way would be to have the FCC require phone service providers to compare the caller ID data to the actual originating phone number and only put the call through if there is a match.

What can you do?

First report what information you can to the FTC or FCC. The more complaints they receive the better since they will show a trend which may induce them to take action.

Secondly, contact your elected representatives notifying them that in spite of the provisions of the Truth in Caller ID Act this abuse by scammers continues unabated and that using spoofed caller IDs is unacceptable. A couple ways they can help is to prevent this abuse through enactment of new enforceable legislation or through technical means as suggested above.

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