Spoofed phone calls originate from one source that’s disguising its phone number as a different one, and you probably get these calls all the time. Maybe they’re numbers from your local area code or numbers for prominent businesses, and the callers are just hijacking those numbers to fool you into picking up. Turns out, making a spoofed call is something anybody can do.
Now, caller ID spoofing isn’t as illegal as you think it would be, so there’s a good chance you can spoof a phone number when calling someone and not get in any trouble. Some states, like Arkansas, prohibit all spoofed calls except when used for law enforcement or public safety. Other states have no specific laws governing caller ID spoofing.
On the federal level, the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID Act rules “prohibit anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value.” So if you’re up to no good, you might want to think twice about attempting to spoof someone else’s digits.
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Now that we’ve gotten that little warning out of the way, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why someone would want to spoof a number.
Law enforcement can spoof numbers during investigations so that they don’t give themselves away. Spoofed numbers also help protect your real phone number and prevent the people you’re calling from calling you back, so it acts as a sort of privacy tool to shield yourself from callbacks and harassment. Pranks are one of the more fun reasons to spoof a phone number. And those are just a few reasons.
On the flip side, there are plenty of illegitimate uses for caller ID spoofing. Spammers and robocalls use them religiously to trick you into picking up so they can defraud you or try to social engineer themselves into your accounts. Neighbor spoofing, where the caller picks a number in your local area code, is used more and more by these types of assailants.
Malicious actors can also take advantage of unprotected voicemail accounts. If a dial-in voicemail account has no PIN protection, all it takes to open and listen to the voicemails is a call from the account owner’s phone number, and that can be spoofed so others can hear those recordings.
An even bigger threat is using caller ID spoofing to facilitate SIM swapping fraud, where they convince the phone provider that they are you and need to port your number over to their SIM card. If successful, your number would be disconnected, and they would get all your calls and texts, which is useful when attempting to hack into accounts that use two-factor authentication, like SMS text codes.
We hope you’re sticking with one of the more legitimate uses for this, of course.
There are actually services out there that help you pretend to be another caller, and most of them cost money to use. Some, like SpoofCard, have trial credits so you can test out the service first, and that’s the one we’ll be using in this guide. If you find out you like what it has to offer, credits, which are per minute, are pretty affordable.
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When signing up for SpoofCard, you need to provide your real phone number, agree to their terms, and create a PIN code. Then, you’ll get five free credits to test out all the tools it includes.
You can start an account and make calls from SpoofCard’s website, but we’ll be using its mobile app, which is easier. There’s a mobile app for iOS and Android, and both are pretty much the same in terms of functionality.
When you first open the app, you’ll see a splash screen that shows you all the tools it has to offer, including caller ID spoofing, adding background noise, changing your voice, and record calls. Recording calls is another legal concern you should look into for your state’s specific laws.
Federal law says that it’s OK to record someone or a group of people without their knowledge as long as you partake in the conversation. If you’re not in the conversation, you need just one person from the group to permit you. In the U.S., 35 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have similar laws, but 15 states require consent from all parties involved. We’re not recording calls, but just be aware of that.
Tap on “Get Free Credits” or “Sign Up” to begin the signup process. You’ll need to enter your real phone number, create a four or six-digit PIN, and agree to its terms. You’ll also need to enter your email address or sign in with your Apple ID (iOS only) or Facebook account.
After that’s done, you may get some prompts to activate notifications or connect your contacts, and you can allow or deny those as you see fit.
Whatever spoofed phone number you end up going with, the process is the same. In our example, we’re using the phone number for a fictitious trip-planning company used by many major corporations, and that’s 1-888-555-0147.
Since many business people use this trip-planning company, there’s a good chance the person you’re calling will already have the number in their contacts. It could also just be in their emails, which your iPhone or Android might try to associate with it automatically. It could also be in a public directory that the caller ID tries to use. So while it may look like 1-888-555-0147 to us, it could look like the company’s name to them.
In the “Caller ID to Display” field, input the number you’re going to masquerade as, then hit “Done.” (Don’t ask me why the national flag of Antigua and Barbuda is showing up next to a toll-free number in the images below — I have no clue.)
Then enter the number you’re calling into “Number to Call,” and hit “Done.”
All that’s left to do is hit “Call.” The person you’re calling will see the spoofed phone number on their caller ID, perhaps even the name of the company or person associated with the number, but they’ll be answering your call.
In my trip-planning company example, I could tell the person travel details for a trip that’s coming up, and I could really screw with their schedule. But you could also just use the number to get your foot in the door to talk about whatever else you need to talk about.
If you don’t want to have any interactions with the person you’re calling, you can do the same thing as above, but before hitting “Call,” tap the “Straight to Voicemail” button. Instead of charging by the minute, it only takes up one credit for a whole voicemail.
In my trip-planning company example again, I could inject a voicemail directly into the person’s phone where they could listen to or read a transcription of whatever I say. Their phone won’t ring and will act as a missed call, but the voicemail will definitely get through.
If I wanted to play an evil prank on them, I could inject a voicemail that might suggest something was wrong with their upcoming trip, such as a cancelation, security issue, or flight delay.