The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would make it illegal for someone to "spoof" their phone's outgoing Caller ID information.
This is a common practice among scamsters looking to defraud people out of their personal information, such as their Social Security numbers and bank acounts. Basically it means the number that shows up on your caller ID is faked to make it look like it is coming from your bank, a legitimate business, or some other organization - or perhaps even a friend or family member. It is also sometimes used for the pupose of misleading money transfer services such as Western Union into believing that the person making the transfer is the credit card holder, when a credit card is used.
The bill, dubbed the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007" would make it "unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any telecommunications service or VoIP service, to cause any caller identification service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information, with the intent to defraud or cause harm." It now heads to the Senate where it will have to be reconciled with a similar bill which the House passed in April.
Neither bill prevent people from blocking their Caller ID information from being displayed, such as when the Caller ID readout displays "Blocked" or "Unknown Number." In addition, law enforcement is exempted from the rule.
Meanwhile there are dozens of websites on the Internet (including Spoofcard.com and SpoofTel.com) where users can get the related calling card and learn how to spoof caller ID, which up until now has been perfectly legal.
The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has reportedly passed the bill, which was introduced in February by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). For now it appears likely that the bill will get the support it needs in the Senate, however, when the Senate will act on it is anyone's guess.
"Caller ID provides critical information to those who rely on it," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation said in a statement. "However, when this technology is used to deceive people it can endanger personal privacy and safety. This bill will help strengthen the ability of the FCC and states to combat these nefarious practices."
(TMCnet will be following up on this news and will follow the bill as it moves through the Senate)