Ofcom
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Ofcom joins international taskforce to tackle number ‘spoofing’

Ofcom yesterday announced it is joining forces with regulators from Canada and the United States to tackle the problem of phone number ‘spoofing’.

Spoofing involves callers hiding their identity by causing a false or invalid phone number to display when making calls. It is a tactic often used by organisations carrying out unsolicited, misleading or even fraudulent telemarketing activities and can increase the harm caused to consumers from nuisance calls.

A ‘spoofed’ number on a call display might be a random series of digits, or even mimic the number of a real company or person who has nothing to do with the real caller.

As a result, consumers can’t return the call to find out who is contacting them or opt out of future direct marketing calls from that organisation. Number spoofing can also make it more difficult for regulators to trace those companies responsible for making nuisance calls.

Coordinated international action

Calls with spoofed numbers can and do come from all over the world and account for a significant and growing proportion of nuisance calls made to consumers in English-speaking countries. International cooperation is therefore vital in addressing this complex problem.

Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK, and international regulators from Canada and the United States1, today pledged to combine resources, share intelligence and work collaboratively to find solutions to the problem of phone number spoofing. Assistance from the telecommunications industry in each of the four countries will also be sought as part of the initiative.

This work complements Ofcom’s ongoing work to improve call and message tracing processes, as set out in its joint action plan with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “International cooperation is vital in finding effective remedies to the problem of number spoofing. We are thoroughly committed to this joint effort and are determined to put a stop to this harmful practice and take action against those responsible.”

A guide for consumers on preventing and complaining about nuisance calls is available on the Ofcom website.

An online portal to help consumers register a complaint by directing them to the appropriate UK regulator can also be found on the Ofcom website.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Competition Bureau Canada and the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  2. Ofcom’s revised statement of policy on the persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service (October 2010 edition) states that “Ofcom will regard the repeated forwarding of inauthentic or misleading CLI (Caller Line Identification) information as persistent misuse. Where users have the ability to choose the CLI number that is forwarded (this is known as a Presentation Number), the deliberate sending of an inauthentic or misleading number from which it is not possible to identify the caller and which does not enable the recipient of a call to return a message is a form of misuse.”
    See paragraph A1.69 of the statement of policy.



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