Have you been a victim of spoofing?  Most of us have, and the problem is only getting worse.  The term “spoofing” means that you are receiving a call from a number whose caller ID is information is false. The calls can be generated from anywhere, but made to appear as if they are coming from somewhere else.  The goal?  To try to get more people to answer their phones, and this increase the number of connects produced from the telemarketer in the call center.

Spoofing can take place in different forms.  One is traditional outbound call center telemarketing, where a live agent generates a call, hoping to connect to a live person on the other end in order to pitch a product or service, conduct a survey, collect a bill, etc.  This can vary slightly, where the call is being generated by a completely automated program, not for the purposes of attempting a sales pitch, but to collect a database of valid numbers that can be reused or resold to another telemarketer, whose live agents then have to filter through fewer disconnected or otherwise invalid numbers. 

Simple software programs can change the appearance of caller ID information before that information arrives on the destination person’s phone.  For example, call centers on the east coast whose clients are in the political arena are frequently based in the 202 area code (Washington, D.C.) or 703 area code (northern Virginia).  During election season, registered voters around the country get inundated with both live and automated calls, also known as robo-calls.  Over several election cycles, voters got wise as to the source of these calls, and answered fewer of them.  So call centers responded by changing their  caller ID information via software, so that their outbound calls to not appear to come from the 202 or 703 area codes.  Instead, the caller ID information will often appear to be coming from the same area code in which the voter resides.  Here in Colorado, there are four area codes:  303 and 720 are used in the Denver metro area, and 970 and 719 are used in other parts of the state.  So a person in Denver may receive a call whose caller ID begins with 303, but the call is really coming from someplace outside of Colorado.  Most people are more likely to answer a call from a number they don’t recognize if it is coming from the same area code in which they reside, thus resulting in a higher number of connects from the call center.

One of the ways to push back against this deceptive practice is to use an app which blocks unwanted numbers.  This can sometimes only be a way to slow down the unwanted calls rather than stop them, as call centers can regularly change their caller ID info once their number of contacts has peaked and then fallen.  Three of the most popular apps to block unwanted calls are:

Advanced Call Blocker

True Caller

Mr. Number

Mr. Number’s website also allow people to enter in numbers from whom they have received unwanted calls, and those numbers can be flagged by others who have also received unwanted calls, and then entered into a person’s call blocking program.  800 notes ( is another site that does this, and whose focus began as spotting calls coming from toll free numbers such as 800 or 888, but has expanded into numbers from any area code.

Don’t look to regulation and/or legislation to stop this problem.  Many of these call centers are based outside of the United States, so enforcement of anti-telemarketing laws is rarely successful.  In addition, the FCC has exempted political based calling from telemarketing laws, citing political speech as a first amendment right.