New State House bill would protect consumers from fraudulent caller ID displays

HARRISBURG — Using specialized equipment to change caller identification information displayed on a telephone would be illegal under new legislation moved Wednesday by House Judiciary Committee Majority Chairman Ron Marisco.

“We are hearing about hundreds of Pennsylvania residents who are being contacted by deceptive people that, through the use of spoofing equipment, are able to pretend to be a local bank. They then ask whoever answers the phone for account details and other financial information,” said Marsico, a Dauphin County Republican. “They are stealing information from innocent people and causing real damage to their lives.”

House Bill 979 would amend current law by adding the offense of false caller identification information display. Current technology allows a person, either through a computer program or through the use of specialized equipment to change the caller identification information that is displayed on a telephone.

This tactic, called “spoofing” allows individuals to make it appear that a call is coming from a number or business other than that of the actual caller and can be used to defraud, harass or induce call recipients to divulge sensitive or confidential information.

This legislation would make it a misdemeanor for any person to cause false caller identification information to be displayed on a recipient’s telephone, with the intent to harass or defraud the call recipient. The penalty for a first offense would be a $2,500 fine and up to one year in prison. Second or subsequent offenses would be subject to a $5,000 fine and up to two years in prison.

This legislation does not apply to the blocking of caller identification information; to law enforcement agencies, federal intelligence or security agencies; or to a telecommunications, broadband or voice-over-internet protocol service provider that is acting solely as an intermediary for the transmission of service between the caller and call recipient.