What to Do When Your Phone Number Is Being Spoofed

Stop scammers from using your phone number to prey on victims

Receiving a lot of angry phone calls and text messages from complete strangers accusing you of spamming them or trying to trick them into falling victim to a phone scam? You might be a victim of someone using your phone number without your knowledge via a technique called phone spoofing.

That's a fancy way of saying your phone number is showing as someone else's caller ID when they make phone calls or send text messages.

Causes of Phone Spoofing

Phone spoofing actually can be used legally by businesses and individuals. For example, a lawyer might want to spoof their own office phone number when making a business call to a client from a personal smartphone after hours.

Unfortunately, this feature is frequently abused by phone scammers who use it to hide their real phone number and replace it with one that’s geographically closer to the people they’re targeting.

By displaying your number as the caller ID, scam calls look less suspicious so their targets are more likely to pick up or respond. This can be incredibly frustrating for the victims and yourself. It can even make your phone unusable if your number is heavily spoofed and you begin to receive a high volume of calls back from the phone scam victims.

How to Stop Someone from Spoofing Your Phone

There are some things that you can try that are recommended by most phone carriers.

  1. Inform your mobile carrier. It’s important to let your carrier know of any suspicious activity regarding your phone number. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and other carriers all have support pages for dealing with identity theft and phone spoofing.

  2. Increase your call security settings. iPhones and Android smartphones have various settings that can limit calls only to contacts in your address book, which can help stop scammers from using your phone number for spoofing. Calls from other numbers will then be sent directly to voice mail.

    You can also block numbers from your old-school landline, by the way.

  3. Set or change your voicemail password. Most voicemail or message bank services can be accessed simply by calling them from your phone. If someone is spoofing your phone number, they will likely also have access to all of your messages.

    If you haven’t already, create a password or security PIN for your messaging service or change the one you currently have just in case the spoofer has gained access to that information.

  4. Create a new voice message. If you’re getting a large number of calls from angry victims of phone scams, change your message bank voice message to explain that your phone number has been spoofed and that you’re sorry and that anyone who has received a scammy call from you should block your number.

  5. Give it time: wait two weeks or so. If you’re lucky, your phone number may be one of many that are being used by phone scammers and they may simply stop using it after a while.

    This could very well happen if they’re doing neighbor spoofing. This is when scammers use numbers to target those in an area close to you; they'll move to a new neighborhood fairly quickly and that could end your troubles.

  6. Check your phone bill. While most phone number spoofing isn’t a sign of identity theft, it can be sometimes so it’s a good idea to make sure that everything in your phone history and its associated reports and billing are looking normal.

  7. Get a new phone number. This is likely the last thing that you want to do but it might be needed if your phone number is being heavily spoofed and you’ve been receiving a high volume of calls from angry scam victims on a consistent basis for over a month.

How to Stop Receiving Spoofing Calls

If you've been a victim of a spoofed call, there are several ways to protect yourself from scammers like this in the future.

  1. Don’t pick up the phone. If you get a call from an unknown number, simply let it go to voicemail. Even the small act of answering these calls can register your number as active and can add you to a scammer’s list for future scam calls.

  2. Never reply or call back. It can be tempting to call a phone scammer back or text them an angry reply but, much like answering a call, doing so will simply tell them that your number is real and is worth pursuing in future scams.

  3. Block robocalls. Most phone carriers can enable robocall blocking on your phone.

  4. Block unknown numbers. Android and iPhone both have settings that can essentially block calls from unknown numbers and those that aren’t in your address book.

  5. Download a phone filter app. There are a variety of apps which can make it easier to block unwanted calls. One of the best ones is TrueCaller.

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