Caller ID Spoofing Is Target of Maryland Bill

By Bruce DePuyt

Tired of spam phone calls that use bogus caller ID numbers?

So is Del. Kathryn L. Afzali (R-Frederick).

She is introducing legislation to crack down on caller ID spoofing, as the practice is called.

Kathryn L. Afzali

Del. Kathryn L. Afzali

Telemarketers “are purposely masquerading their location in order to get you to pick up the phone,” she said. “It is a purposeful attempt to get an innocent person to think it’s somebody local calling them.”

Because many people ignore calls from area codes they don’t recognize, telemarketers increasingly make use of technology that replaces their real number with one that contains the same area code as the person they’re trying to reach.

Afzali says she has registered her phone number with the federal Do Not Call program, so she — like the constituents who have complained to her about spoofing — shouldn’t be getting telemarketing calls in the first place. Nonetheless, they persist.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt this passionate about a bill,” she said. “People are so bombarded by this spam phone-calling, they’re not answering their phones anymore.”

Even if approved by the General Assembly, Afzali’s bill faces potential hurdles. The National Law Review recently reported that a Mississippi measure similar to hers was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled the state lacked standing.

“Can we enforce it? I don’t know. But Maryland should speak out and say that it’s against the law. We need to call it what it is. It’s nefarious and it’s deceitful,” she said.

Legislatures in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Iowa are reportedly working on legislation similar to Afzali’s.

In addition, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) has introduced a bill that would expand existing telecommunications law to apply to calls placed from outside the U.S. Many spam calls originate from or are routed through other nations, to evade U.S. law.

2 comments

  • Great! Sounds good Kathryn but until we can come up with a way to actually track and ‘locate’ the spoofers what good will this bill do? Better yet get people to refrain from answering numbers they do not recognize or are not expecting.

  • I am in favor of an “all of the above” strategy to address this problem. However, there are already regulations that ban unsolicited robo calls (initiated using an autodialer or using recorded messages at the outset of the call) – these regulations are grouped together under the Telecommunicatiins Consumer Protection Act. Regulations to stop “number spoofing” are also needed but that is only part of the solution. The FCC needs to drive (vs allow) the Telecoms operators to implement the technology to block spoofing and then needs to relentlessly pursue any caller that finds their way around the blocks – even if originated internationally. The most effective regulation would be regulation that requires the Telecoms operators to solve the problem – this could be potentially done at the federal level or through state Public Utility Commissions.

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