Everything You Need To Know About Spoofing

  • June 27, 2018
  • Author: Keith Young


Caller ID is a useful phone feature that allows you to see who is calling. The problem is that scammers have cleverly created ways to hide their true identities. “Spoofing” is the term for altering the phone number that is displayed on your Caller ID.

The Cost of Spoofing

Why would a caller “spoof”? The goal is to misrepresent themselves and trick you into answering their call.

Scams are a big deal. They can be costly and have a huge impact on the lives of victims.

A very common phone scam in Canada involves a caller representing themselves as a CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) agent. Intimidation tactics are often used and victims are led to believe that they must provide the CRA with vital information and/or money.

Canadians have lost more than $10M in CRA scams since 2014. In 2017 alone, Canadians lost $3M. (Source)

How Spoofing Is Used

Scammers use spoofing in various ways.

Often, they use it to pose as a bank, business, or government agency. When you see an “official” caller like that, you are more likely to answer the phone. In this case, the scammer wants you to give up personal or financial information.

Another motivation for spoofing is blocked calls. If you’ve ever blocked a number from calling you, the caller may use spoofing to trick you into answering the phone next time.

When spoofing is being used, your Caller ID may display:

  • The first 6 digits of your own phone number so that it looks like a local call, perhaps from a neighbour in your area (also known as “neighbouring”)
  • Your own phone number (also known as “mirroring”)
  • The number of another individual and/or organization (i.e. posing as a recognizable brand)
  • A number that cannot be dialed within the telephone network


When Is Caller ID Blocking Allowed?

It is illegal for telemarketers to make calls to Canadians without accurately identifying themselves. Using technology to spoof Caller ID with inaccurate, false or misleading information is a violation of the regulations of the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission).

However, there are exceptions. In certain situations, a caller is permitted to alter the Caller ID information. Some examples include:

  • A medical professional calling about personal information
  • Law enforcement working on cases
  • A call centre that works on behalf of multiple clients

7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Spoofed Calls

There are many things you can do to prevent becoming a victim to phone scams.

  1. In Canada, you can register your telephone number on the National Do Not Call List. This can protect your number from unsolicited calls that are not regulated by law.
  2. If you are asked to provide personal information over the phone (such as banking or credit card information, passwords, etc.), use extreme caution. If the call is unsolicited, hang up and call the number on your account or the organization’s website and ask for confirmation that they did call you.
  3. Do NOT give an unsolicited caller access to your computer. If you’re unsure about the validity of the call, hang up and call your computer company at the number listed on their website.
  4. Some phone service providers allow you to block specific numbers from calling you. When you receive an unwanted call, you can easily block that number from calling again.
  5. If you don’t recognize a number, or if you were not expecting a call from the organization, simply don’t answer the call. Let it go to voicemail. If it’s legitimate, chances are they’ll leave a message.
  6. Be careful about giving out your phone number. Understand that it could be used for telemarketing purposes.
  7. Consider getting an unlisted phone number.

The CRTC is working hard to protect Canadians from spoofing. They need our help to enforce the rules. It’s easy to file a complaint here.

The CRTC website has a wealth of information about spoofing and unwanted calls, including what to do if you think you’ve been scammed.

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