FCC Proposes Rules to Stop Malicious Caller ID Spoofing

January 10, 2019 | by Andrew Regitsky

FCC Proposes Rules to Stop Malicious Caller ID Spoofing

Clearly the folks at the FCC are optimists.  For some inexplicable reason they believe the government will be open by January 30th in time for their next meeting.  Based on this hope, they have released the proposed agenda for the meeting which includes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in Docket 18-335 to stop malicious caller ID spoofing.  According to the Commission, this practice is becoming a scourge on consumers: 

Through these schemes, callers manipulate caller ID information to, for example, deceive consumers into giving away valuable personal information so that it can used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally.  In 2018 alone, the FCC received more than 52,000 consumer complaints about caller ID spoofing.  Congress has recognized the billions of dollars of harm to millions of American consumers from fraudulent spoofing activity, some of which is occurring through means other than traditional phone calls made within the United States.  (FCC Fact Sheet, Released January 3, 2019).

In the NPRM, the FCC proposes changes in its Truth in Caller ID rules to implement changes in the Communications Act made by Congress in 2018.  Specifically, 

Congress enacted Section 503 of the RAY BAUM’S Act to amend section 227(e) of the Communications Act to expand and clarify the prohibition on misleading or inaccurate caller identification information.  This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes to modify the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID rules to implement these recent statutory amendments, and in so doing, take another significant step in the Commission’s multi-pronged approach to ending malicious caller ID spoofing (Id).

The NPRM largely tracks the language used by Congress and is designed to: (1) stop spoofing activities directed at consumers in the United States from actors outside the United States; and (2) extend the reach of the Truth in Caller ID rules to caller ID spoofing using alternative voice and text messaging services.
Congress made clear that a significant and growing share of unwanted caller ID spoofing comes from outside the country, and there currently exists no specific telecommunications rules to stop this problem.  The proposed changes in the NPRM would make these activities illegal.
The Commission also proposes to amend its rules to incorporate the phrase “in connection with any voice service or text messaging service” into the prohibition on causing any caller identification service to transmit or display misleading or inaccurate caller identification information: 

The current prohibition on caller ID spoofing in section 64.1604(a) of our rules does not specify that spoofing in connection with “any telecommunications service or interconnected VoIP service” is covered by the rule.  However, because we are now proposing to include a wider universe of communications services within the prohibition on caller ID spoofing, we believe that explicitly identifying the services at issue better tracks the language of the statute and provides more direct notice to covered entities. (Draft NPRM, at para.14).

The Commission includes the following definitions to implement the expanded Truth in Caller ID rules:

  • Text Message - A message consisting of text, images, sounds, or other information that is transmitted to or from a device that is identified as the receiving or transmitting device by means of a 10-digit telephone number or N11 service code.
  • Text Messaging Service - A service that enables the transmission or receipt of a text message, including a service provided as part of or in connection with a voice service.
  • Voice Service - Any service that is interconnected with the public switched telephone network and that furnishes voice communications to an end user using resources from the North American Numbering Plan or any successor to the North American Numbering Plan adopted by the Commission.  It also explicitly includes transmissions from a telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to a telephone facsimile machine.
  • Caller Identification Information and Caller Identification Service - The Commission proposes to amend the definition of “caller identification information” and “caller identification service” in its rules to mirror the amended statutory text. Specifically, it proposes to substitute “voice services” and “text message sent using a text messaging service” for “telecommunications services” and “interconnected VoIP services,” respectively, currently in each of these definitions.

Industry comments regarding the NPRM are due 30 days after it appears in the Federal Register.  Of course, that all depends on when the government opens.  We will see and hope.