Laura is an freelance writer living in Florida. She has a Master's degree in English.
My Number Was Being Spoofed
At first, I was just getting a few calls every few days. Sometimes it was random texts asking me if I called, or why I called. I checked my cell phone log to make sure that I had not accidentally sent out any calls. The activity on my phone only showed the calls and texts that I had sent. So, I just figured it was a mistake and went on.
Then the calls started to get more frequent. People began to leave voicemails. “Why did you call my number?” “Stop calling me!” “You are a ______ ___________.”
It turns out that my phone number was the victim of a telemarketing spoof. A company was using my number with a local area code to call other people in my same area code. The idea is that people are more likely to respond if they see an unknown local number versus an out-of-state or 800 number. I have not been able to find out what company was doing it or what product or service they were trying to sell.
All I knew was that my phone was now being held hostage by this company. Calls were coming in every few minutes from angry people wondering why I called them. I would hit reject on my phone and let it go to voicemail. This did not help. People were then leaving angry messages on my voicemail along with curse-laden threats if I didn’t stop calling them. I was shaking and upset and wanted it to stop. So I decided to do some more research.
What Is Telephone Spoofing?
Telephone spoofing, also known as caller ID spoofing or neighbor spoofing, is basically the act of making a phone call appear as if it is coming from a different number on a caller ID. The reasons for doing this can range from simple pranks to elaborate scams. There are various methods to this, such as configuring the settings of a VoIP provider. There is easily available technology that allows your phone calls to appear as if they are coming from another number.
How Do I Stop Someone From Spoofing My Number?
The reality is that there is no real way to protect your phone number from getting spoofed. Numbers are selected at random, so it's not like you can be specifically targeted. The only real immediate action you can take is to change your number. However, this is obviously a huge hassle and many people have so much of their life tied to that particular number. Plus it doesn't stop the telemarketer from just using your new number at some point.
Can the Phone Company Help?
I did some research to see if there was a way to get help from my service provider. Though I did not call the company directly, I read multiple forums online and official help pages that said the only way to stop unwanted calls was to change my number.
Like many of us, I’ve had my number for a while. I use it for doctor’s offices, for work, and to get reminders. I did not want to change my number. I knew that I was going to have to come up with a solution on my own.
How I Stopped the Spoofing
By this point, I was getting calls and text messages every few minutes during the afternoon hours. I started responding back to the text messages. I left a simple message: “I did not call you. My number is being spoofed by a telemarketing company. Sorry. Please block my number.”
But it quickly grew tiresome and time-consuming to keep sending that text message over and over, and it didn’t do anything about the calls that were still going to my voicemail. My phone was still receiving calls every few minutes.
I then recorded a simple and clear voice mail: “If you are calling because you received a call from this number, please know that a telemarketing company is spoofing my personal number without my consent. Please block my number so that the company will stop using it. Thanks.”
I also installed an app on my phone to filter calls. The app I chose was Should I Answer. This phone app has many different settings for filtering unknown calls. I chose to filter all calls that were not in my contact list.
When anyone called while the app was active, they would be sent straight to voicemail where they would hear my message about the current issue. The app will also keep a record of the calls that it blocks. However, no calls except your contacts will ring through to your phone. I was so happy to have my phone back. I could pick it up without seeing a notification for 20 missed calls.
On the first day, the app filtered and blocked over 50 calls. All of those calls would have been sent to my voice mail instead. Hopefully, at least a portion of those listened to my message and heeded my advice.
On the second day, there were around 40 calls. On the third day, it was in the teens. As of today, almost a week later, I’ve had no calls to my phone from unknown numbers.
Steps to Stop Telemarketer Spoofing!
Change Your Voicemail
Let your unknown calls go to voicemail. Explain in a simple message what is happening to you and suggest that if the caller is receiving telemarketing calls from your number that they block you. This will keep the telemarketing company from calling that user back and begin to make your number less desirable.
Use an App to Block Unknown Numbers
Using an app to block incoming calls from anyone not in my contact list really decreased my stress level. If the app doesn't recognize the number it will send it straight to your voicemail where they will hear the message.
Wait It Out
This will not work overnight but it will, in the long run make your number less desirable for spoofing. If the telemarketer is continuously blocked while using your number, they'll move on to some other poor soul.
Isn’t It Illegal to Spoof Someone Else’s Number?
It turns out that spoofing a number that is not your own is not technically illegal. According to the FCC website and Truth in Caller ID Act, "FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value.”
But with this law, if there is no intent to harm, in other words, if it is a legitimate business, you can use other numbers. Phone spoofing is legal in cases such as a business displaying their toll-free call-back number or a doctor using their mobile phone and having their office number appear. Even if the intent is to harm or defraud, some of the call centers originate from outside the United States, so they are very hard to regulate or shut down.
What to Do If You Receive Spoofed Calls
It's also important to remember that the annoying telemarketing calls you are receiving may not be from the number that's listed on your phone. Before you call that number back angrily, know that it might be your neighbor's number.
If you receive what you suspect to be a spoofed telemarketing number:
- Try to avoid answering unfamiliar numbers, even if they are from your area.
- If you do answer a call and it is obviously a spam call (they are often offers to reduce credit card payments or offer prizes), do not respond to them and hang up. Do not answer any questions, especially yes or no questions.
- Do not give out any personal information such as addresses or Social Security numbers. No legitimate business or government agency will contact you to collect this information. Be suspicious if you are pressured to immediately give any info.
- Immediately hang up if someone claims they represent a government agency or company. They will usually attempt to contact you via the mail rather than call you. You can call an organization directly to inquire if they did attempt to call you.
Why I Think My Solution Worked
The telemarketers were calling the same people several times a day and for multiple days in a row. I know this based on the voicemail messages I was receiving and based on the days and times of the numbers trying to call me back. My hope was that if enough people blocked my number, and this was then conveyed to the telemarketing company, that they would find my number not a good one to use and move on. While I’m sorry that some other poor soul may now have to deal with this, I’m happy to get a break from it.
I’m writing this in the hopes that others can start fighting back against this. If your phone is being taken over by a telemarketing spoof, I encourage you to fight back.
I found that people were very sympathetic once they found out what happened. People sometimes left me voice mails, but instead of anger, they were expressing concern and sympathy for the situation I was in. Some even said that they had the same thing happen to them and they know just how stressful it can be.
Best Solution for Now
Until there is a better solution out there, this is what worked for me and stopped the spoofing of my number.
I know that they may still try again with my number. I plan to leave all of my safeguards in place for now. I hope that if you are reading this and are having your own battle with your number being spoofed, that you find a solution.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Telemarketers are constantly spoofing my business number which I don't want to change. What else can I do to stop this from happening?
Answer: In this case, I would install an app that sends all calls straight to voicemail (if that is possible for your type of business). Is there a way to edit your business greeting to something like this: "Hello, this is Bob with ABC business. If you are a client, please leave a message. If you are receiving unsolicited calls from this number, please know that this is not me but, rather, a telemarketing company that is spoofing my number."
This might help to curb the nasty voicemails from annoyed clients, at the very least.
Question: My phone is a landline. I 25-30 calls a day from my number. What can I do?
Answer: This is much harder! If you have voicemail, you could leave some variation of the message in the article. That way you could unplug your phone to avoid all the rings and let people get the message for a few days. That's much harder to deal with than a mobile line.
Question: My business landline is being spoofed. Is the only option not to answer the phone and let it go to voicemail?
Answer: You can always answer and explain what is going on. What I have found is that I only needed to redirect to voicemail for a few days in order to get it to stop. I know it must be so frustrating to try to run a business and deal with this.
Question: My phone number is tied to my side business. Do you think its possible that business phones are being targeted for spoof?
Answer: I honestly think that they use random number generators with a local area code and if it works and is not blocked, they keep using it. I'm in no way a local business, just a person with a cell phone. I have heard of others that are the same. I'm so sorry that this is happening to you, too. It must be even more frustrating when it is tied to your livelihood.
Question: Sometimes I feel that someone else is claiming my cell number when I get a text and they think someone named Johnny obviously owns my cell number and my name isn’t Johnny, (I am a woman named Crystal) and I have been blocking their number 24/7. What should I do for my protection from this spoofed number?
Answer: It does sound like there might have been a mix-up. It could be something as simple as Johnny misprinting his number on a poster or business card. I think what you are doing sounds like a good idea. Either block the number or install an app that sends an automated message to those that are not in your phone's contact list.
Question: I keep getting texts and calls asking for an "Ashley Duke," but that is definitely not my name. When I get texts, I either ignore it or reply saying they have the wrong number. Same with calls, but in both cases, they never respond. It keeps happening. Is my phone number being spoofed? If it's not, is there a possible way to stop this?
Answer: You could install an app as I mentioned in the article. There are ones that will block text messages as well as calls. Perhaps this person is giving out your number either accidentally or is giving it out to people she doesn't want to call her.
Question: If my number is being used and people are then blocking does my number then become listed as a suspected spam phone number? I don't want that to happen for when I need to make legitimate calls.
Answer: Usually people have to report your number for it to be listed on websites as suspected spam. So if your number is being spoofed, it could be reported by others whether you are asking people to block or not. It may be that they are less likely to report it if they call your number and hear your message about the spoofing problem.
Question: I'm a real estate agent, I can't block calls that are not on my contact list. I was spoofed, but now, any call I make that is not on my contact list just rings and rings, but the phone I'm calling doesn't ring. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: I would suggest calling your service provider and asking them about this. Sounds like some other type of issue.
Question: Is there an option to block telemarketers for people such as job seekers who need to be available to unknown numbers and can't because of spoofing?
Answer: That is a super tough situation. In that case, you definitely would not want to leave a message like the one I mentioned in the article. You could still use an app that filters all phone calls and sends to voicemail (with just a regular message). You could also possibly add to contacts the number of a company that might call you if, for example, they have set up an interview. This just shows how invasive and stressful this spoofing situation truly is.
© 2018 L C David
Tammy on April 21, 2020:
Thank you for this article. I received two calls today within a couple hours with someone I don't know saying that I had called them. The first one was weird, but the second one made me think that a company was using my phone. I had received many scam calls over the years and regularly blocked them, but never had my number used. I like your voicemail idea and have already changed mine. I'll see if I receive more calls in the future, but am glad that I'm not working these days due to Covid-19, so shouldn't be receiving calls from potential employers.
Andre O on February 28, 2020:
I had this happen just today. Lucky this was my Google Voice number that is only used for people that have this number and it will pass them through to my cell phone.
I simply recorded a voice message, like you mentioned, and turned on "do not disturb". This sends everything to voicemail. I was getting a call back from people every minute.
its a darn shame that some scammer can effectively make your phone number unusable for as long as they decide that they want to use your number. You would think that the phone companies would step it up and stop others from spoofing phone numbers.
Brackett James on September 14, 2019:
You don’t need to stress yourself,if you need any hacking situation or any device you can easily reach Alexghacklord on is gmail...tell him I refer you...thanks
Chris on July 24, 2019:
"The reality is that there is no real way to protect your phone number from getting spoofed."
FALSE. The FCC has the ability to regulate this and enforce stronger phone number verification laws. They don't because, like everything else, telecoms (and others affected in the field) lobby against it because then they'd actually have to DO that verification work, which eats into profits.
SOURCE: I'm in this field. You bet your bottom they lobby not to have to do this, because it's a hefty burden to make and maintain.
BJ on June 05, 2019:
Can you please share the names of the two apps you used?
my name and number?! on May 30, 2019:
I got a text asking what I wanted. That I had called them twice. I said I hadn't. They sent me a screenshot of missed calls with MY NAME AND NUMBER?! I called Sprint and I was assured that no one actually hacked my phone, that my pics, messages, and info was safe. That not even Sprint or Apple can access that info. But I'm not sure exactly how someone had my name and number? Or what to do about it now?
Grant on May 22, 2019:
Crystal's problem is something I have experienced before. It is a new form of telemarketing/phishing where someone sends you a link or a message attempting to get you to click it automatically giving you either malware or a virus if you are using a PC to open the message. I have had multiple numbers do the same thing and ended up changing my number to a VoIP provider then porting that number into the carrier I use. Iphones are targeted through Imessage and if I message doesn't work they know you have an Android or other phone then send a text message. This is how they determine there attack. Remember just because you have an IPhone does not mean you are safe. Also Macs and Linux PC can be attacked as well so watch out if you use a texting to PC app like Imessage on Mac or google messages on Linux or windows.
i got spoofed on May 21, 2019:
this is ugly -- this week I got spoofed with my phone number calling me several times per DAY! Even at night so I have to turn off my phone! Added my number to the donotcall.gov registery but the laws should be changed so that spoofing is ILLEGAL
Kristin on April 25, 2019:
This is BS, you can be directly targeted. I continue to get calls to my number from my number.
willray on April 01, 2019:
Just got three calls spoofing my cell phone, only one left a message but I could not understand the message. I have blocked it on my cell. Does that work pretty good.
Cathy on March 29, 2019:
Why wont the FCC change the law, and make spoofing our nunbers illegal.?? I am tired of seeing my landline caller id say its me calling . Ive talked to cinti.bell, fcc, ive done everything from not answering my phone to blowing whistle on the scammer. I need my phone numbers, cellular and landlines. What is the holdup ? Make it criminal and prosecute. Take their phones away, one at a time. Thanks for letting me vent.
Ni on March 14, 2019:
This would be more helpful if the names of some potential apps were listed. Or, even what to search for in the app store...
Shondra Boring on February 17, 2019:
That happened to me this week. I received over 150 calls/voicemails/texts in an hour and a half, and probably close to 300 in a couple of days. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb, recorded a new voicemail message, blocked numbers (although I know I accidentally blocked a couple that are legitimate), talked to my carrier, as well as reported it to the FCC. They can't investigate if they don't know about it. I took screenshots of every call and text and put them in a Word document and uploaded to the FCC. It's still going on, but definitely not as much. I, too, feel sorry for the confused elderly. :(
Debbie frew on January 23, 2019:
How can I stop telemarketers from calling my cell phone
Todd on January 05, 2019:
Because my phone number is being spoofed for corrupt telemarketers from abroad, people using mobile apps like like AT&T Call Protect see my number as a *severe threat*, and I am auto blocked from contacting people with this app.
This problem began when I recently registered a another Internet website domain name and included my mobile phone number in the contact information. My number was then in the public WhoIs directory, and I the very next day, had aggressive people calling me from abroad. Assuming I was a new business owner, and would be confused about my domain registration, who be fooled into purchasing whatever mandated solution they were prescribing.
I then reported all of these calls to the SPAM (ART&T Call Protect) list as they came in, using the app, and when they call again, they would be blocked. It is possible, but I am not sure, that they somehow noticed the blocking, and therefore, used my number for in their spoofing, so other would put me on the blocked list.
Now my phone number is listed as telemarketing scammer. Sad!
Nicole on October 19, 2018:
Thank you for your article. I am going to try this. My phone number is being spoofed and I am also getting angry messages and texts. I am going to change my voicemail today, and hopefully things get better. How do we make it illegal for companies to spoof our phone numbers? Is Congress working on anything for this?
L C David (author) from Florida on October 02, 2018:
The app I mentioned in the article does send all calls to voice mail, Ty. So you can try that one. There are different settings you can play around with.
I didn't block anyone's number during the process. Instead, I asked people that were getting the telemarketing calls to please block me.
Lura on September 26, 2018:
Thank You! I Have just started getting these messages.
maybe I can stop it before it gets so bad.
I have blocked many numbers. then I wonder if I have blocked someone who might need to get ahold of me'
TyBaillif on September 21, 2018:
Thank you very much for this article. This just started happening to me and I realized it when I called a number who I had a missed call from and he answered angrily saying I called him, even though I definitely didn't lol...I tried your voicemail technique but it is very unfortunate for me right now because I am in the process of applying for a bunch of jobs and am actually expectig calls from local unknown numbers. Because of this, I don't necessarily want to get an app send everyone straight to voicemail who's not on my contacts list but Ive been answering to so many random people anyway who weren't a potential employer, I might just have to do it. Do you have any suggestions for good apps to send all calls to voicemail?
Glenn on September 21, 2018:
I now have been getting spoof calls using my number to my land line phone number with part of my last and first name. I thought it was a ATT cross lines so when I picked up very poor talking person that said I should call Microsoft because the contract had run out and would be canceled. What can we do
L C David (author) from Florida on September 14, 2018:
You don't have to change your number. Try the steps I mentioned above including getting a call blocker (at least temporarily). When you're not an easy number for the telemarketers to spoof, they will stop using it.
Amy on September 06, 2018:
I am receiving calls daily about me calling them-which I am not. Boost Mobile was useless in helping. Why should I have to change my number-so frustrating!!
Hulaberry72 on September 04, 2018:
Thank you so much for this post. 9/4/18 invaluable information, I was loosing my mind.
Krys on August 30, 2018:
I read your article due to my phone currently being spoofed. Your solution was genius. However, sadly it does not work that way completely. I worked in a call center. There are usually three calling methods: calling from the corporate number, calling from the area code the corporation is located, and calling from the persons local area number. Usually they call “hot (new) leads” multiple times within the first week. After that, they go into the older pile which are rarely touched unless they are assigned to try to contact again when there’s no luck with the newer leads. But the app will definitely keep them from getting directly to you. But we have no idea what number were using when we use the “local” option. So rather they block you or not, the company will still continue to use whatever number the generator assigns.
Dave on August 29, 2018:
Thanks for the solution. This recently started happening to me and has been getting worse. I'm glad google led me to your solution now before it escalates to 50+ calls a day. Right now it's at about 20, which is still ridiculous. I didn't even know this was a thing, and I question why. My name was on my voicemail. Now angry people know who I am. Frustrating.
ellie on August 26, 2018:
apparently my home phone keeps getting spoofed saying that 800-460-6625 is placing a call and the phone is "in use". I have been trying to track down the number. All I get when I call is a fax like sound. Some people have said it's their pacemaker transmitter checking. I called my doctor's pacemaker dept and they checked with the manufacturer of my pacemaker. Neither knew anything about it and they don't recognize the number. It happens several times a day. there's gotta be a way to stop it but I haven't figured it out. No one calls me to ask why I called so I don't have that problem. If anyone knows how to fix it please let me know.
G pundt on July 30, 2018:
Problem is it's my landline that they are spoofing. I cannot use an app
L C David (author) from Florida on April 12, 2018:
I was also very surprised that it was mostly legal. It was very stressful for me and I was so upset thinking I was going to have to change my number and thinking of the dozens of places that have that number as my contact.
I also had heartbreaking voicemails from people that sounded older or confused as to why I was calling them. One older lady sounded out of breath and apologized that she missed my call. That made me so sad and angry that they were doing that to people like her.
My understanding is that even if they are spoofing my number for suspicious reasons, it's very hard to trace. It was a very frustrating experience. I don't wish it on anyone.
Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on April 12, 2018:
I hope this never happens to me. If it does, I'll be glad that you shared your solution.
Isn't using someone else's phone number a form of identity theft?
I found a Wikipedia article "Caller ID Spoofing", but it is too technical to be helpful to me.
Why the practice is legal in the USA befuddles me. You certainly suffered stress and inconvenience, as did those getting the unwanted, misrepresented calls.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 12, 2018:
Laura, I get calls from spoofed numbers on a daily basis. However, I've not had my number spoofed. At least not yet!
Thank goodness you were diligent and found a way to put a stop to it.