It is against the law for anyone to harass, defraud, or terrorize another person by spoofing or deliberately manipulating their caller ID

August 03, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Enforcement Bureau has announced plans to fine two New York-area men for apparently using false caller ID numbers—also known as "spoofing"—to carry out harassing phone calls to the ex-wife of one of the men.

The FCC says that Steven Blumenstock of East Rockaway, NY and Gary Braver of North Bellmore, NY are each facing a proposed $25,000 fine for spoofing the phone numbers of Ms. Robin Braver's parents, her child's school district, Sing Sing Correctional Facility, the U.S. Postal Service, and other entities to trick Ms. Braver into answering the phone so that Mr. Blumenstock and Mr. Braver could deliver harassing messages to her.

"It is against the law for anyone to harass, defraud, or terrorize another person by spoofing or deliberately manipulating their caller ID," said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. "Spoofing is particularly disturbing when used to trick consumers into believing that the calls are from family members or representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, and even the government."

According to the FCC, the National Network to End Domestic Violence contacted the Bureau in late 2015 regarding a series of spoofed telephone calls received by Ms. Braver. The Bureau's investigation traced those calls to Mr. Blumenstock and Mr. Braver and found that the men have made at least 31 spoofed telephone calls to Ms. Braver, sometimes calling multiple times a day.

The FCC says that Mr. Blumenstock used a third-party spoofing service to make menacing calls at the direction or with the participation of Mr. Braver even though Ms. Braver had a protection order against her ex-husband. Mr. Blumenstock was subsequently arrested and charged by the Nassau County Police Department of New York with stalking and aggravated harassment. A criminal case against Mr. Blumenstock is ongoing.

The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 and the FCC's rules prohibit spoofing with the intent to cause harm, defraud, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. Consumers rely on caller ID information to make decisions about what calls to accept, ignore, or block. Increasingly, bad actors use inexpensive third-party services to illegally spoof the caller ID information of businesses, government facilities, and other legitimate sources in order to gain unauthorized access to consumer information, place false emergency calls to law enforcement (otherwise known as "swatting"), and facilitate other criminal activities. Criminals also use spoofing to trick victims into answering calls for the purposes of harassment and stalking.

The FCC stresses that accurate caller ID information is a vital tool that consumers use to protect their privacy, avoid fraud, and ensure peace of mind.

For more information about the FCC's rules protecting consumers from unlawful spoofing, see the FCC consumer guide regarding caller ID and spoofing.

To file a complaint with the FCC, visit the agency's consumer website or contact the FCC's Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).