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Caller ID spoofing: How to prevent fraudulent calls

When most businesses think about ramping up security, they imagine implementing a robust cybersecurity strategy to prevent data breaches. While protecting your assets against this type of cybercrime is crucial, you also need to pay close attention to illegal caller ID spoofing.

Some types of ID spoofing help companies build better connections with customers (like a doctor calling a patient from a personal phone but displaying the office number rather than a personal number). However, fraudulent parties can employ the same technology to victimize your customers. In fact, 63% of consumers reported received an impersonation call in 2022.

Caller ID spoofing is a threat that affects businesses as well as consumers. One in three businesses reported being aware that their name was used by an impersonator to make scam calls. If a customer receives a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from your business, their confidence in you will plummet.

What is caller ID spoofing?

Simply put, caller ID spoofing is the process of masking a caller’s real number to hide its real origin. Instead of seeing the caller’s actual information, the receiver sees a completely different number that usually seems more trustworthy than the real source. Common spoofing tactics include:

  • Neighbor spoofing: Replacing the first three digits in the phone number with a local area code so call recipients are more likely to believe they should know the phone number

  • Mirroring: Displaying the number of the individual who is receiving the call instead of the outbound caller’s number

  • Impersonating: Displaying the number of a trusted person or business and posing as that entity

  • Phony number: Some spoofers will display a number like 123-456-7890 that can’t be called back

How does caller ID spoofing work?

There are two main methods of spoofing calls.

  • VoIP spoofing: Voice over Internet Protocol is a service that enables users to place calls over the internet. VoIP allows users to customize their caller ID name when setting up the account.

  • Spoofing services: There are apps and web-based platforms created with the sole purpose and helping people spoof a call.

Legal vs. illegal call spoofing

Some spoofing is legal, while other spoofing is not.There are many differences between legal and illegal spoofing, with the most important one being that legal spoofers have permission to use the spoofed number. For example, a company that makes calls on behalf of its client, businesses that offer toll-free lines, and professionals that want to display their work numbers may all benefit from legal spoofing.

Illegal spoofers, on the other hand, don’t have the authorization to use the number that appears on the screen. Some examples of why illegal parties may spoof their numbers include hiding the real source of the call, pretending that a caller is located close by, and impersonating businesses that are familiar to the victim in order to increase the efficiency of the scam. Illegal spoofers use these tactics to engage in illicit activities and extract information for malicious purposes.

How to spot spoofed calls

For consumers

If you know what to look for, you can identify spoofed calls before falling victim to a scam. Here are some red flags to look out for.

  • If a live person typically calls you from your doctor’s office or insurance company but this call is a pre-recorded message, that can be a good indicator that something is wrong. If the business does use a pre-recorded message, pay attention to the script. Does it sound different than normal? Do they normally have you press numbers to indicate your answers instead of speaking aloud?

  • If the caller is pressing you to make a decision and creating a sense of urgency, hang up.
  • If the caller is trying to get your personal information like a credit card number or social security number, this is likely a scam. The company you regularly interact with should already have this information.

For businesses

It can be difficult to know if your number is being spoofed until you start receiving negative feedback from customers. Here are some signs to look for.

  • Receiving messages in response to interactions that you have no record of having.

  • Call recipients who seem hesitant to believe what your agents are telling them on the phone.

  • Customers requesting you to stop bothering them.

How does illegal ID spoofing hurt your business?

Every year, cybercriminals generate millions of dollars through fraudulent activity and a large portion comes from illegal caller ID spoofing. If scammers start using your number to conduct their illicit activities, it delivers a huge blow to the reputation of your company. 

It’s relatively easy for someone to spoof your company numbers if you don’t take the right precautions. The worst part is that if fraudsters start using your number to contact prospects, clients, and employees, there’s a strong chance you won’t find out until it’s too late. Some more negative effects include:

Customer experience

If criminals know your business number and manage to get a list of your customer contacts, they have everything they need to commit fraud. When a fraudster spoofs your number and contacts your customers, this criminal can cause anything from a minor inconvenience to a life-changing crime like identity theft.

Once a business has been impersonated, 34% of consumers are suspicious of any future calls coming from that business and 13% have even switched brands after receiving an impersonation call.

If your customers are weary of calls that appear to be coming from your brand, they will likely ignore all calls from those numbers in the future. The results can be detrimental for your customer experience ratings. It’s difficult to communicate the results of a medical test, updates to an account, or other critical information if you can’t get the customer on the phone.

Wasted resources

Even though the fraud call didn’t actually come from your company, consumers will still hold you accountable if they saw your number on their phone screens. Handling calls, emails, messages, and social posts from disgruntled customers and employees can become a full-time job, especially if fraudsters have been using your number for a while.

Should you attempt to trace fraudsters?

There are some cases where telephone companies can trace the origin of the call to find out who the spoofer is. But getting this information takes a lot of time and it rarely produces significant results. 

Rather than focusing your energy on these practices, your best bet is to safeguard your numbers and make sure that affected parties receive the appropriate help.  

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Related: Learn more about business spoofing and what you can do about it in this Hiya webinar recording. 

How to prevent your number from getting spoofed

Let's discuss how to stop phone spoofing. Lawmakers, consumers, and leading voice performance providers like Hiya have advocated for the implementation of tools that help reduce the impact of illegally spoofed calls. The STIR/SHAKEN standard was recently introduced in the US and is designed to help carriers identify incoming calls.

In simple terms, the STIR/SHAKEN standard categorizes incoming calls depending on their attestation level. But, even though this feature can help consumers, it does little to protect the companies whose numbers are being spoofed.

Rather than waiting for changes in the industry, you can take control of your numbers and protect your assets through your own means. While it is difficult to prevent your number from being spoofed, there are things you can do to restore consumer trust and mitigate the effects of caller ID spoofing.

Hiya Connect allows you to display a company name, logo, and call reason on the screen of the call recipient. This signals to them that the call is coming from a trusted source. With the customer’s confidence gained back, you can have productive conversations again.

To learn more about securing calls for your business and customers, check out our Four Steps to Minimize Fraud and Maximize Security in Your Voice Channel.

To learn more about securing calls for your business and customers, check out our How to Stop Spoofing eBook.


Author Hiya Team