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Report ‘neighbor spoofing’ to the FCC

Someone has figured out that those of us with caller ID don’t answer anonymous calls, so a new strategy is being employed. We’ve experienced a deluge of annoying calls, primarily on our landline but also on our cell, which showed up on Caller ID as city of Ashland, among other local organizations. They looked important, so we picked up, then got recorded messages about reducing mortgage payments or switching TV providers. Is this legal? Can we lodge an official complaint somewhere?

— Jeannie G., Ashland

The technique you described is called “neighbor spoofing,” with robocallers using fake caller ID info to make calls appear as though they are local, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

No, Jeannie, it’s not legal.

Spoofing, or presenting false information on caller ID in the way you described, violates the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, which outlines penalties of up to $10,000 per violation for anyone who transmits misleading or inaccurate info on caller ID “with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value,” according to the FCC.

The FCC recommends people avoid answering calls from unknown numbers, hang up immediately if they answer by mistake, and never give out personal information in response to unexpected calls.

Complaints can be lodged online at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov, by phone at 1-888-CALL-FCC or by mail at: Federal Communications Commission, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, 445 12th St., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.

Be sure to provide as much detail about the call as possible.

Those complaints can help the FCC build a case, such as when they fined a Miami man $120 million last May for about 96 million travel and timeshare robocalls made in the summer of 2017.

Some lawmakers are advocating for stronger protections. Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley last April were among six co-sponsors of the “Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones” or ROBOCOP Act, which would have required phone companies to provide customers with free tools to block the calls, for the phone company to verify that the caller ID is accurate, and would have allowed customers to take legal action against companies that violate the law.

The proposed legislation is under discussion in the House and Senate, with the Senate bill referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and an identical House bill referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.