Assembly Approves Garcia, Caputo, Eustace & Jimenez Bill to Criminalize Caller ID Spoofing

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Carmelo Garcia, Ralph Caputo, Tim Eustace & Angelica Jimenez sponsored to bolster protections for residents against caller ID fraud was approved, 76-0, by the full Assembly in a Monday afternoon session.

Sponsors note in the legislation (A-3002) that most companies that offer basic telephone service also offer a caller ID service that can provide their customers with the telephone number or name of the calling party. Some callers, however, are employing technology to alter the name or number that appears on the recipient’s caller ID display. This practice is known as “ID spoofing.”

“Spoofing infringes on a resident’s right to privacy,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “Caller ID gives residents a choice whether to take a call or not, to assess its importance by recognizing the name. ID spoofing takes away that right from residents.”

As provided in the bill, ID spoofing can make a call appear to come from any phone number the caller wishes. The sponsors cite in the bill a report to the United States Senate on ID spoofing. It stated that the practice has been used to access personal information of those receiving telephone calls and to deceive law enforcement into responding to what they believed was a legitimate distress call.

“Those who use ID spoofing services know exactly what they are doing and why,” said Caputo (D-Essex) “This is an unacceptable practice or prank, whichever way it is used. For any resident on the other end of the line, it is not entertaining to be deceived into answering a call.”

This bill, entitled the “Truth in Caller Identification Act,” supplements the consumer fraud act, P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.), to make it an unlawful practice for any person, in connection with any telecommunications service used within this State, to knowingly cause any telephone caller identification (“caller ID”) service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value, except for the following: 1) any authorized activity of a law enforcement agency; or 2) a court order that specifically authorizes the use of caller ID manipulation.

“Caller ID spoofing is another way for con artists to take advantage of New Jersey’s seniors,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “If a resident has caller ID, they expect it to reveal the name and number of the person calling. With spoofing, seniors are not able to avoid certain callers and are vulnerable to potential scams.”

The bill does not specifically: 1) prevent or restrict any person from blocking the capability of any caller ID service to transmit caller ID information; or 2) authorize or prohibit any investigative, protective, or intelligence activities performed in connection with official duties and in accordance with all applicable laws, by a law enforcement agency of the United States, a state, or a political subdivision of a state, or by any intelligence agency of the United States.

“Caller ID spoofing is an invasion of privacy,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson). “It’s like entering someone’s home in disguise. This is a deceptive business practice that should not continue in New Jersey.”

An unlawful practice under the consumer fraud act is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, violations can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party.

According to the U.S. Senate report, in the past, it had been possible to “spoof” or manipulate caller ID information over traditional phone calls; however, such spoofing required special phone connections and expensive equipment.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on December 4.