What Is Fake Caller ID?

Alex Tree

Fake caller ID occurs when a person spoofs a phone number. Spoofing a phone number hides the incoming caller’s number and shows a different one instead. This practice is used for many legitimate reasons, such as displaying the main number of a business that has hundreds of other numbers. Fake caller ID is also used for both prank calls and illegal acts, such as impersonating a bank employee to get personal information. There are ways to prevent being scammed by a spoofed caller, however.

With fake caller ID, a false number is displayed on the phone of the person receiving the call.
With fake caller ID, a false number is displayed on the phone of the person receiving the call.

With fake caller ID phone services, the person who wants to hide his or her number calls a number given to him or her by the company. After this, he or she enters a special pin number or password and then the number he or she wants to call. Once done, the call is bridged and the receiver sees a different number. Fake caller ID services might charge a monthly fee or charge by the minute. The legality of these services depends on local laws, but they are not legal in some countries if the purpose of hiding the number is to cause harm or steal property.

Fake caller ID can be used to get a person's personal information.
Fake caller ID can be used to get a person's personal information.

One legitimate way spoofing caller ID is used is to hide a number coming from a hospital. Hospitals often have hundreds of numbers, but it usually makes sense to show the receiver of the call the main number of the building. Large businesses may also use this practice to redirect callbacks to the main channel. Another legal way of using a spoof caller ID is to prevent the display of phone numbers from reporters.

Some ways of using a fake caller ID are not legal and may result in jail time, large fines, or both. For example, using a spoofed number to deceive people into divulging personal information may be illegal. In addition, some laws state that using a spoofed caller ID to cause harm is illegal. Causing harm is a vague description that has the potential to cover many types of fake caller ID calls, such as pranks.

One way to not accept a call from a spoofed call is to hang up and call the number back. This way, the person is sure to reach the business whose number was displayed. If the number is not familiar, the phone can be answered and the caller asked to identify himself or herself and where he or she works. After this, the business can be looked up in a directory and then called by the former receiver directly, ensuring contact with a legitimate business person.

Fake caller ID is used for prank calls.
Fake caller ID is used for prank calls.

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Discussion Comments


One of the best things Apple has done for its iPhones is to introduce a way to block callers when you update to OS7. It's not dependent on your cell service, which is wonderful, and makes me wonder why every phone, cell or landline, doesn't have that capability?

All you have to do if you get one of those calls is to pull it up in your "recents" menu, tap the lowercase "i" beside the number, scroll to the bottom and tap "block this caller," OK it, and you'll never get another call from that number.

I don't know if those people get a "Neener, neener, neener, we blocked your call" (although that would be so nice!) or if it just rings and never answers or what. I would like to know, though, just out of curiosity.


These days, fake caller IDs are usually used in spoofing schemes. I don't know of a legitimate company that uses a fake caller ID anymore, even if they do have a lot of numbers. They will still have a main number displayed and people can call that number.

But being able to see a spoofed number is about as useful as having a real one when looking up the number online or reporting an annoying number to the Federal Communications Commission. I've found that works pretty doggone well.

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