“Spoofing” refers to calls where the caller causes the caller identification (caller ID) information that displays on the recipient’s telephone to falsely identify the caller as someone other than the caller’s true identity.
Debt collectors are increasingly using “spoofing” services or similar technology so that the consumer who receives the call believes that the caller is not a debt collector. Some debt collectors are using false caller ID info to show that the collection agency is a “Sheriff”, “Police Department”, “State Attorney” or other law enforcement agency.
One Florida consumer observed that a large debt collector was identifying themselves as a warranty company when calling to attempt to collect an out of statute account. Huh? Does the debt collector expect people who are broke to answer their telephone so they can discuss why they don’t want to purchase an extended warranty? The debt collector’s deception must work because they’re using it. I would not have expected this fraud on consumer telephone subscribers to be worthwhile. Spoofing is often much more reprehensible than impersonating a warranty company though.
A consumer informed me that a couple of months after negotiations with a debt collector broke down, she received a call from “Emergency Services” “911”. The caller requested that she provide her name and Social Security Number. When the consumer asked “why”, the caller explained that they needed to verify her identity because they believed her son was in the hospital. (The consumer has a four year old son.) Eventually, the debt collector disclosed the real purpose of the call.
Florida consumers who contact me have increasingly complained that they received spoofed telephone ID’s. I expect to continue to receive these complaints as the communications equipment which enables callers to spoof their telephone numbers becomes more widely available and cheaper to use. Fortunately, telephone owners usually have a right to sue debt collectors who “spoof”.
Spoofing is displaying false caller id information.
Blocking a telephone number or caller identity is not “spoofing”. For example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) codified at Title 47, U.S Code Section 227, provides :
“PROTECTION FOR BLOCKNG CALLER ID INFORMATION — Nothing in this subsection may be construed to prevent or restrict any person from blocking the capability of any caller ID service to transmit caller ID information.”
Title 47, U.S.C. Section 227(e)(2) (2012) (emphasis original).
Spoofing is deceptive and, in my opinion, violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For example, the TCPA prohibits
“caus[ing] a caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate information, with the intent to defraud or deceive.”
Title 47, U.S.C. Section 227(e)(1) (2012). Although the TCPA does not provide consumers a right to sue for using spoofed telephone numbers, it has expressed Congress’ finding that spoofing is deceptive and, therefore, is a deceptive trade practice.
Many readers have asked me whether debt collectors are required to include the name of their company in their caller ID information. The FDCPA clearly requires debt collectors to display correct identity IF they are going to display a name of their company. But, there is not any federal law that requires debt collectors to display any name.
In 2007, a consumer sued Client Services, Inc., alleging that Client Services’ use the term “Unavailable” for the identity of the caller violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1692e(10). Section 1692e(10) prohibits debt collectors from :
“[t]he use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer”.
15 U.S.C. 1692e(10). In Glover v. Client Services, Inc., the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan held that the use of the word “Unavailable” did not violate Section 1692e(10). The Glover court employed an objective test and found that the word “Unavailable” was accurate. (The Glover court noted that Client Service’s identity was, in fact, “Unavailable” because Client Services caused it to be unavailable.)
The Glover Court also noted that nothing in the text of 1692e(10) requires the debt collector to identify themselves — the debt collector must be truthful if it chooses to display an identity though.
PRESERVE THE EVIDENCE!
If you are receiving calls which are spoofed, I recommend that you take photos of the caller ID information which displayed on each of the spoofed calls.
For additional suggestions how to preserve the evidence of collection harassment, click on the highlighted portion of this sentence.
If you are receiving spoofed caller id information, please feel free to email me a photo of the spoofed information along with a copy of any messages, letters, or other information which unmasks the culprit.
Some of the most “over the top” debt collectors are those who attempt to collect pay day loans or dishonored checks. Collectors who falsely claim to be law enforcement or that a Florida consumer will be arrested because they fail to pay a consumer debt should contact my office regardless of whether the collection agency is spoofing the caller ID display or not.
Spoofing often creates extraordinary problems when the collection agency is calling someone who never owed the alleged debt or is calling anyone on their cell phone.
I am proud to represent telephone subscribers who are receiving calls about someone else’s accounts or who are receiving collection calls on their cell phone.
Collection agencies who use “desk names” (i.e., fake first and last names) are arguably allowed to do so. I do not recommend that consumers pursue collection agencies because their collectors use “desk” names.
If you are reading this article, it is possible that collection agencies are bombarding your home phone or cell phone or are harassing you. For further information about how the FDCPA protects consumers from harassing telephone calls, click on the highlighted portion of this sentence.
HAD ENOUGH ?
If you are receiving “spoofed” calls from a collection agency or even a creditor, you are welcome to contact me by completing the Collection Agency Harassment form in the right hand column of this page.
I would greatly appreciate digital photos of spoofed caller ID’s by debt collectors including the date and time of the call and the name of the collection agency that placed the “spoofed” call for publication in this article.
You do not need to go it alone or try to sort out the misinformation on the interwebz.
If you are a Florida resident, you are also welcome to call my office. If you live in Florida, I will contact you to provide a free case evaluation.
If you live outside Florida, I will try to provide you with the name of an experienced FDCPA lawyer who practices law in your state.
(C) 2011 – 2013 Donald E. Petersen
All rights reserved.