Caller ID Spoofing: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself Against It

Learn about spoofed phone numbers and how to guard against these calls

Person holding a turned-on smartphone with an unknown incoming caller on the screen.

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Caller ID spoofing is a phone scam and a type of spoofing that involves manipulating the caller information typically displayed on a device that has caller ID for incoming phone calls. Like spoofing, scammers that engage in caller ID spoofing do so with the intent to trick the recipient into answering these scam phone calls.

What Is Caller ID Spoofing?

Caller ID spoofing is a phone scam in which, like most spoofing attacks, the objective is to steal personal information from unsuspecting victims.

The difference with caller ID spoofing is it usually involves tricking people into accepting phone calls from scammers by manipulating the caller ID information for the scammer's incoming call to make it look like the call is coming from a trustworthy source, such as the victim's bank or a government agency like the IRS.

How Caller ID Spoofing Relates to Neighbor Spoofing

Neighbor spoofing is a type of caller ID spoofing. According to the Federal Trade Commission, neighbor spoofing is when scammers produce a fake phone number that resembles that of other local phone numbers, your own number, or phone numbers of friends and family. This is an effort on the scammers' part to entice you to pick up the phone and engage with them.

Victims of caller ID spoofing aren't just the people on the receiving end of these scam phone calls. Caller ID spoofing also negatively affects those who happen to own the phone numbers used in these calls to trick people.

These phone numbers are used without the consent of the owner, and as Tripwire notes, businesses who get their numbers spoofed can suffer if recipients of the spoofed calls (and potential customers) decide to block the number to stop the scammer. Unfortunately, blocking the number doesn't block the scammer, it just blocks an innocent person or business.

How to Guard Against Spoof Calls

You may not be able to block every phone scam using caller ID spoofing, but there are ways to reduce the chance you'll fall for one of these phone scams.

  1. Avoid calls from unknown numbers. Both the FTC and the Better Business Bureau recommend letting suspicious calls like this go to voicemail, rather than answering the call and engaging with the scammer. If you're unsure about the legitimacy of the, you can just hang up, then contact the business, agency, or person directly using verified contact information you've used before.

  2. Hang up as soon as possible. There's no reason to engage in conversation with a suspicious caller or provide personal information about yourself during these calls. Hang up as soon as you can and don't answer any questions.

  3. Don't press any buttons if prompted by the caller. The Federal Communications Commission also advises that recipients of these scam calls avoid pressing any buttons if the caller (or recording) requests it. According to the FCC, if you're asked to press a button, just hang up because "[s]cammers often use this trick to identify potential targets."