Just Spoofing

by Donald Petersen on December 7, 2010

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.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

S January 26, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Don, thank you for your great direction today. Even though you weren’t able to help me as my matter is out of state, it was nice of you to help me find assistance elsewhere. I appreciate your assistance. This article was very interesting.

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Don Petersen January 26, 2011 at 7:48 PM

You are welcome. Good luck!

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Jennifer November 4, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Chase is using spoofing. It appears my brother-in-law has called me 27 times in the last week. I answer the call and it is Chase bank attempting to collect a debt.

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Michelle January 20, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Hi, Started getting calls from “Personnal mini storage” 407-979-4355 finally answered one night and the asked for my brother(which does live with me) I explained no and asked who was calling when they replied Clyde Standbury from West Asst Mgmt. Was kinda puzzled so I called the number back and asked where I was calling the girl told me West Asst Mgmt so I asked why it came up Personnal mini storgage was told it did not.. then asked her manager the same question why? I was told there was something wrong with my phone company and was hung up on. After googleing the number it looks like a wooded area in St cloud fl…. Little concerned this is just not right to doop people in to pick up the phone. Unsure who to tell? Thanks- Michelle

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Don Petersen January 21, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Michelle : Thanks for telling me. I’ll post an update in the West Asset Management postings and see what other aliases West Asset Management is using. Thanks !

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Paul S February 20, 2012 at 4:06 PM

I also have received multiple calls from what shows on my caller ID as Personal Mini Storage. When I answer I get the automated “This is a call for XXXX, when XXXX is on the line please press 1″ (I always hang up on those). Called back and found it was West Asset Management. Asked them why my caller ID said it was Personal Mini Storage and she simply said, “that’s strange, I don’t know.”

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Don Petersen February 20, 2012 at 6:45 PM

Paul : Thanks for the information confirming the prior report. Interesting … Don Petersen

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Bonnie T May 31, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Shows on mine too as Personal Mini Storage. I received 2 calls on the same day. May 29, 2012. The first at 1:28 pm; the second at 6:50 pm. Both are missed calls. I take care of my debts and am tired of being harassed. If I don’t know the number, I’m not picking up. It doesn’t matter what form they use, whether it be “spoofing” or not.

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Johnathan June 28, 2012 at 12:06 AM

Getting numerous calls from “Personal Mini Storage” myself. Same number. Two yesterday, and 3 today. I used to get calls at work from another collection agency after I asked them to quit calling me at that number.

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Frank June 29, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Just received a call at my work. No name on my desk phone caller ID, but number was 407-979-4355 . When I picked up, it was a recording asking for me by name, and to press 1, 2, or 3. When Googling, I came across this site. But this number does come up as Personal mini Storage when Googled.

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Don Petersen June 29, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Frank, this is interesting but appears to fall short of “spoofing”. Some people seem to be receiving calls where the caller ID states the caller is “Personal Mini Storage”. That would be spoofing. Another consumer complained to me that the caller ID identified the caller as a warranty company rather than a debt collector. This is also spoofing. Many people have asked whether using a phone number within the consumer’s area code when the debt collector does not have offices in the location served by the consumer’s area code is spoofing. (It is not.). Other consumers have complained (publicly and privately) about debt collectors using friends or relatives telephone numbers. (That IS also spoofing.) If anyone has a digital photo of a call where the name on the caller ID is false, I would love to share it on this site.

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Sharon March 12, 2013 at 11:30 AM

I am getting phone calls at work. The number comes up as 727-582-6200 which is Pinellas County Sherrifs Office. The Man on the line said he was Detective Joseph Oliver and unless I called his Investigator Mr Moore immediately. He would have no choice but to come pick me up on charges. The number he gave me call Mr. Moore 904-450-3925. When I questioned him on the charges he said call Investigator Moore or he would be picking me up. I asked why I was to call a Jacksonville number he said thats the way it is done and that he was busy and hung up. Well I called back and there is no Detective Oliver and there are no charges. I filed a complaint and they said when this guy called back to just hang up and not engage them.. He has called several more times and Mr Moore’s phone is a prepaid cell phone, what a bunch of scammers…. how terrible to do this to hard working people.

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Dana April 27, 2013 at 7:32 AM

I have recently begun receiving telephone calls from a collection agency on my cell phone. The number that appears in my cell phone ID is my own business telephone number. (I own a business). I was physically in the location were my business telephone is located when I received the telephone call on my cell phone which showed my own business calling me. I answered the call because I was confused as to how this was happening, and the caller on the other line Identified himself as being from a company other than my own (which was hardly surprising) and refused to give me more than the three initial associated with the collection agency for whom he works (NCR, NRM, I cannot recall precisely). I pointed out to him that I could see that they had used a telephone number that belongs to a business other than the one he works for, and asked him for more identifying information, which he refused to provide. He claimed he could not give me more information about the nature of the company he works for or a more clear identification of the name of the company without revealing private information associated with the personal business of the person he was attempting to reach (which was me, but I was refusing to identify myself unless and until he further identified himself). When he continued to refuse my requests for clarification and explanation as to how his call appeared to be coming from a number I knew to be associated with another business (my own), I informed him that I was ending the cll, and then did so. I have received another such call this morning (3rd time in 2 days). Is this “spoofing” and a violation? I am in North Carolina, not Florida.

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Donald Petersen April 27, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Dana – The debt collector’s use of your office number so that it appears on your caller ID is spoofing. Debt collectors who spoof should be sued. Consumers should consult with an experienced FDCPA lawyer who maintains an office in their state for legal advice.

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Charlie April 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Diversified Consultants, Inc., aka DCICollect is spoofing a local number in Baltimore showing “D. Pitts” at 443-681-6412 which is a robocall looking for someone else (same first initial and common last name).

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WHITNEY October 24, 2013 at 3:27 PM

The one calling me used a NY court phone number then numbers from Greece. The company name is Eisenburg, Whitman & Associates LLC.. I had to play along with their game because they kept hanging up but I finally got their name today. No pic right now but I will take a few later for you if you would like.

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Donald Petersen October 25, 2013 at 6:03 AM

Whitney – Would love to have a photo of a debt collector (or scamster) spoofing a court’s phone number!

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Mari Bare December 26, 2013 at 6:29 PM

My son in law has a vehicle which he owes for. Since he hasn’t been answering calls from them, they called and my name and phone number showed on his caller-id so of course he answered it. Isn’t this illegal and what can i do about it? Very iritatting to know someone spoofed my number to make him answer the phone. I can show phone logs from my phone showing I haven’t called his for 3 days. And we do have the phone number she tried to call from before she did it. I told him to save it on his phone so it shows time she called what else would we need?

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Donald Petersen December 28, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Mari – I highly recommend that you (and your son in law) consult with a consumer lawyer who practices law in your state. Your son in law should take a photo of the called ID info. on all of the spoofed calls.

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