FCC Takes Aim at Use of Spoofed Caller ID Information by Robocallers


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October 2016 TCPA Compliance Monitoring Report

On September 30, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or “Commission”) Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (“CGB”) clarified that carriers may block certain calls if a subscriber requests call blocking in order to prevent its telephone number from being spoofed. CGB’s clarification is intended to facilitate initiatives that will limit the number of robocallers who pretend to be trusted callers via caller ID spoofing.

Among these initiatives, the Commission considers the creation of a caller ID authentication database and a “Do-Not-Originate” database keys to cutting down on call spoofing by robocallers. Specifically, a “Do-No-Originate” database would include numbers associated with government or other trusted organizations that consumers are likely to trust. Some robocallers, particularly fraudulent or scam callers, intentionally spoof these trusted numbers because a consumer is more likely to answer. A “Do-Not-Originate” database would allow carriers to verify whether the trusted organization was in fact originating a call and let the carrier block the call if the trusted organization’s number was being spoofed.

CGB also clarified that consumers can be deemed to have consented to blocking calls when the calling number’s subscriber requests that its number not be used to originate calls. This is a departure from the Commission’s general rules that require carriers to complete calls. But the exception is warranted, according to CGB, because it believes no reasonable consumer wishes to receive calls that display a spoofed caller ID from a well-known or trusted number.

While this clarification is likely to be met with enthusiasm by consumers, it presents further complication for both robocallers and the businesses that rely on or support robocallers. The most obvious risk to the robocalling industry from increased blocking of robocalls is to the robocallers themselves. However, CGB’s clarification ultimately may be more important to calling platforms that facilitate robocalling.

Many calling platforms allow outbound calling campaigns to use spoofed caller ID information. In many cases, this may serve a legitimate interest of the outbound caller, to give called parties a common call back number for example, but CGB declaring that no reasonable consumer wants to receive unwanted calls from a spoofed telephone number could indicate that the Commission intends to scrutinize caller ID spoofing more closely. If that happens, the Commission could crack down on the companies that provide spoofed caller ID information in addition to the robocallers using the information.

If you have any questions the FCC’s caller ID rules or about how the Telephone Consumer Protection Act impacts your business, please contact Seth Williams at slw@commlawgroup.com, Jane Wagner at jlw@commlawgroup.com, or Nate Hardy at njh@commlawgroup.com.

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