The Communications Act of 1934 was established by Congress in an effort to encourage and regulate electronic communication in the US. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was formed in order to consolidate the regulation of communication practices within a single organization. Although the original act has been amended several times, based on advances in new technology and changes in society, legislative bodies are now scrambling to keep up with what is called Caller ID Spoofing. This practice allows businesses to use alternative numbers while billing the original business.
This is an important program for many businesses who hire telemarketers who work from home, yet prevent billing against personal phone numbers. In this way the caller’s home number and identify remain unknown to consumers in order to protect privacy. New proposed legislation would end the practice of using caller ID to transmit information which is misleading, yet businesses fighting this legislation claim that protecting the privacy of their employees who work from home are not deceptive or fraudulent in intent.
An example of how this practice can be misused, however, is with Atlas Supply Inc. out of Tempe Arizona who has been in business since 1917. Telemarketers are now using their identity in order to make fraudulent and deceptive calls to unwitting consumers who believe they are being contacted by a well-established company.
In fact, this company has spent decades building a solid business that is respected in the community and the use of their name by other entities has generated many problems that have been difficult to resolve. According to Jessica McIntosh, one of the principles in the company, it’s more difficult to track down the parties misusing their information than would be expected. Major telephone carriers won’t pursue complaints by individual companies and law enforcement can’t seem to track down con artists who continue to move in order to evade authorities.
This practice, however, is not limited to businesses. It’s fairly easy to spoof anyone’s name and number and, frequently, members of the younger generation will use such practices just for the fun of it. When calls are made to police stations, government offices, hospitals, schools, and even 911 centers for the purpose of causing mayhem and making false reports, trust is violated. Additionally, the use of automated dialing systems is on the rise which, when calls are answered, forwards callers to an agent, sex menu, recorded message, ad, or a number of other options. However, the FBI has a unit that investigates these types of calls and is attempting to close them down as soon as complaints arise.
The use of Caller ID was never intended to disguise the true identity of callers. Therefore, many telemarketers walk a fine line. Some work with reputable companies from home where ID information reflects the company they work for rather than personal information. However, more and more are running fraudulent or deceptive scams that are increasing the number of victims at an incredible pace. It would appear that new legislation may be the only way to ensure that those answering the calls know exactly who they are speaking to and have the option of not answering the phone at all. However, in order to give it “teeth” any new legislation needs to be followed up with active pursuit and conviction of those using this system for misleading purposes.