FCC Podcast - Spoofing, Scamming, and Crackdown on Unwanted Calls
Recent FCC Enforcement Action
FCC Fines Robocaller $82M (9/26/18) | FCC Proposes $37.5M Spoofing Fine (9/26/18) | FCC Fines Massive Neighbor Spoofing Robocaller $120M (5/10/18)
Unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls - are the FCC's top consumer complaint and our top consumer protection priority. In addition, complaints are on the rise from consumers whose numbers are being spoofed or whose calls are being mistakenly blocked or labeled as a possible scam call by a robocall blocking app or service. The FCC is committed to doing what we can to protect you from these unwelcome situations and is cracking down on illegal calls in a variety of ways:
- Issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in enforcement actions against illegal robocallers.
- Allowing phone companies to block certain types of calls that are likely to be unlawful before they even reach consumers.
- Empowering consumers to use call blocking or labeling services for calls to their telephone number.
- Working to develop ways that phone companies can authenticate Caller ID to reduce illegal spoofing.
- Making our complaint data available to enable better call blocking and labeling solutions.
You can file a complaint with the FCC if you believe you have received an illegal call or text. Click the tabs below for tips, FAQs and resources.
- Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a "local" number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
- If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with "Yes."
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
- Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
- If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
- To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.
Robocalls are calls made with an autodialer or that contain a message made with a prerecorded or artificial voice.
Advances in technology have unfortunately allowed illegal and spoofed robocalls to be made from anywhere in the world and more cheaply and easily than ever before. That's why it's become more of a problem for consumers, and a more difficult problem to solve.
Keep in mind that many robocalls are legal. While we have taken several actions, and continue to work on reducing illegal robocalls, it is a difficult problem that requires complex solutions. The most complex part is identifying the illegal calls in real time to be able to block them without blocking lawful calls.
- What are the rules for robocalls?
- What are the rules for telemarketers calling a wireline home phone?
- Are robocalls to wireless phones prohibited?
- What types of autodialed calls are permitted under the FCC rules?
- What are the rules about robocalls releasing telephone lines?
- Are any organizations or individuals exempt from the Do Not Call rules?
- Can I opt out of autodialed calls?
- Where should I file my unwanted call complaint?
- What does the FCC do with consumer complaints?
- How can schools get more information about compliance?
FCC rules ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes.
- For commercial texts, your consent must be in writing.
- For non-commercial, informational texts (such as those sent by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations, those for political purposes, and other noncommercial purposes, such as school closings), your consent may be oral.
The ban applies even if you have not placed your mobile phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list.
Tips for avoiding unwanted texts
- Do not respond to unwanted texts from questionable sources. Several mobile service providers allow you to block the sender by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or "SPAM"). Check with your provider about options.
- Be careful about giving out your mobile phone number or any other personal information.
- Find out if any company you do business with has a policy that allows it to sell or share your information.
File a complaint with the FCC if you receive:
- An unwanted commercial text message sent to your mobile phone.
- An autodialed text message sent to your mobile phone if you didn't consent to the message previously (or it doesn't involve an emergency).
- Any autodialed text message from a telecommunications company or advertising a telecommunications company's products or services, if sent without your prior consent.
Report suspected spoofing
If you think you've been the victim of a spoofing scam, you can file a complaint with the FCC.
Recent FCC Enforcement Action
Caller ID spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally, but also can be used legitimately, for example, to display the toll-free number for a business.
Political Calls & Texts
Restrictions on political campaign-related robocalls or robotexts vary based upon whether a call is delivered to a landline telephone, a cell phone, or certain protected telephone lines such as emergency or toll-free lines, or lines serving hospitals or similar facilities.
Political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls, including autodialed live calls, prerecorded voice messages, and text messages, are:
- Not allowed to cell phones, pagers, or other mobile devices without the called party's prior express consent.
- Not allowed to protected phone lines such as emergency or toll-free lines, or lines serving hospitals or similar facilities, unless made with the called party's prior express consent.
- Allowed when made to landline telephones, even without prior express consent.
Robotexts - text messages generated through autodialing - are considered a type of call and fall under all robocall rules. As text messages generally go to mobile phones, they require the called party's prior express consent if they are generated using autodialing. However, political text messages can be sent without prior consent of the intended recipient if the sender does not use autodialing technology to send the text.
All prerecorded voice message calls, campaign-related and otherwise, must include certain identification information:
- The identity of the business, individual, or other entity initiating the call (and if a business or corporate entity, the entity's official business name) must be stated clearly at the beginning of the message.
- Also, the telephone number of the calling party must be provided either during or after the message.
Call Blocking Resources
These resources are provided to arm you with information you can use to block or filter unwanted calls and stop annoying robocalls.
Multiple call blocking or call labeling services are available for wireless or VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone services. However, blocking calls to traditional copper landline phones is much more difficult to do. Talk to your phone company about call blocking or labeling resources.
The descriptions and links provided are for informational purposes only. The FCC does not endorse any non-FCC product or service, and is not responsible for the content of non-FCC websites, including their accuracy, completeness or timeliness.
Do Not Call List
The national Do Not Call list protects landline and wireless phone numbers. You can register your numbers on the national Do Not Call list at no cost by calling 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register. You can also register at donotcall.gov .
Telemarketers must remove your numbers from their call lists and stop calling you within 31 days from the date you register. Your numbers will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers.
Under FCC rules, telemarketers calling your home must provide their name along with the name, telephone number, and address where their employer or contractor can be contacted. Telemarketing calls to your home are prohibited before 8 am or after 9 pm, and telemarketers are required to comply immediately with any do-not-call request you make during a call.
Whether you are on the National Do Not Call Registry or not, tell unwanted callers that you do not consent to the call and to put you on their internal do not call list. Make a record of the caller's number and when you made your request not to be called, and file a complaint with the FCC if the caller does not comply with your request.
What is a telephone solicitation?
A telephone solicitation is a telephone call that acts as an advertisement. However, some phone solicitations are permissible under FCC rules, including: calls or messages placed with your express prior permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization. However, having an established business relationship no longer meets the rules for permissible unsolicited calls to your landline phone. Companies and telemarketers must have your express permission to call.
Are there any other lists I can register my number with?
Yes. Additionally, many states now have statewide do-not-call lists for residents. Contact your state's public service commission or consumer protection office to see if your state has such a list, and to find out how to register your number or numbers. For contact information for your state public service commission, check the government listings or blue pages of your local phone directory.
If I continue to receive such calls, what can I do?
If you receive a telephone solicitation that you think violates any of the FCC rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules, but does not award individual damages.