Navigating between Illegal vs Legal Spoofing & Robocalling

In 2024, robocalls are plentiful while their purposes are often ambiguous. The tremendous 70%* of phone calls left unanswered is because it is increasingly difficult to understand the true purpose of today’s phone calls. The lines between deceit and legitimacy are becoming blurred as more technologies continue to advance. Widespread acts of mistrust, such as illegal spoofing and illicit robocalling, are some of telecom’s largest challenges to date. While many cases of robocalling and spoofing are fraudulent, these technologies also have unique and legitimate use cases. It's important to understand the differences between the two.

Illegal Robocalling:

There are many nuances to robocalling mostly based on consent and compliance within the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the TRACED Act’s regulations and rules surrounding these laws promulgated by both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you receive a phone call that you did not provide written consent for nor can see a clear way to opt-out, this is illegal. If the originator of the call failed to consult the National Do Not Call Registry, this is illegal. If a bad actor purposefully seeks to harm, steal or swindle you, this is also illegal. At Somos, we are continually making efforts to limit this illicit activity and protect consumers from these scammers. This idea of malintent is a good but sometimes convoluted way for all of us to differentiate between legal and illegal robocalls. Once it is discovered that your call originated from fraudsters with the intent to be dishonest, action can be taken to combat these practices. That said, not all robocalls are ill-spirited as there are many ways to effectively utilize them to your business’s advantage while staying within the FCC’s rules.

Legal Robocalling:

How can one partake in both meaningful and legal robocalling? An actor can safeguard themselves by establishing their objective of conveying beneficial information after having received consent for communication. If an organization stays up to date with current regulations and hopes only to positively impact those that they are calling, this falls fully within the legal framework. When school is canceled due to a snowstorm or a company urgently needs to share an update, robocalling is the perfect tool. Automation of phone calls when applied with good intent and due diligence is a powerful utilization of modern telecommunication technology. One way for legal robocallers to ensure that they are calling a telephone number for which they have consent is to check with the Reassigned Numbers Database (RND). The RND will indicate if a phone number has been disconnected, thereby signaling that the company no longer has consent to contact the individual at that number.

Illegal Spoofing:

Alongside robocalling, there is a term used for the disguising of a caller ID known as spoofing. Spoofing is the concept of altering the appearance of a phone number that is displayed on a device handset. When used inappropriately, this practice aims to trick recipients into answering calls by making them appear as though they are from trusted sources. Scammers will spoof the phone numbers of well-known brands in order to trick the victim into answering the call. This type of spoofing harms both the victim and the brand whose number was spoofed.

Legal Spoofing:

Although the many dangerous implications are clear, there are cases in which spoofing can be both legal and beneficial. Lawful uses of spoofing can be conveyed through the example of popular transportation companies. Take Uber for example: Drivers are able to communicate with their riders and vice versa using their personal cell phone. When a driver initiates a call or text from their personal device, their personal phone number is masked with the business number for Uber. This provides confidence to the rider that a company they are doing business with is reaching out to them, as well as providing privacy to the driver by not displaying their personal phone number. Useful applications of spoofing can aid in situations as described with modern transportation apps but also in more critical cases such as domestic violence shelters where protecting identity and location is key. These are clear examples of why it would be meaningful to implement spoofing in order to protect the personal information of both the originator and the receiver.

Somos is committed to rebuilding trust in our communications channels with our fraud mitigation solutions. By truly understanding the legitimate practical applications and potential dangers of these practices, we can better facilitate the development of effective strategies for combatting telecom-related fraud. To learn more about how Somos is driving trust in communication, click here.

*TMC Internet Telephony:

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