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Does "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010" Hurt Telemarketing?
By Greg Smith

Today's society has brought about new, inexpensive technologies that have made it easy to manipulate the incoming name and number phone call recipients see on their phone. Caller ID "spoofing" clearly has an underlying intent to confuse or misrepresent information to recipients of Caller ID information. For instance, a scam artist might exploit the Caller ID of a bank in order to trick an unsuspecting person into revealing their Social Security number, bank account information or credit card number.

The "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010", a new piece of legislation passed April 14, 2010, makes it illegal to use false Caller ID with the intent of deceiving a person into revealing personal information or otherwise causing them harm and would subject violators to $10,000 in fines and up to a year in prison. Representative Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the chief sponsor of the bill, cited a relevant case from last year where New York City police officers uncovered an identity theft ring that utilized Caller ID spoofing methods to embezzle more than $15 million from nearly 6,000 victims. As it is the intent of this legislation to crack down on such misuses of Caller ID, legitimate uses of the technology, such as changing the phone number, name displayed, or blocking the data entirely of a domestic abuse shelter for the protection of its occupants, will still be allowed.

Although the measure gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authority to develop regulations to enforce the new law, the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010" lacks a vital detail in its stipulations. The bill does not require carriers capable of delivering Caller ID to provide quality service to their customers by delivering accurate information if a name is available in any recognized North American Numbering Plan (NANP) Calling Name (CNAM) database. NANP CNAM databases store all most all of the telephone numbers in North America and contain service and operational information in relation to customer names. All too often an incoming call will register as "unavailable", "unknown" or "out of area". This usually means the unidentified number came from another database and the call recipient's carrier did not want pay the small fee to acquire the caller's information from another database. In many ways, this can be just as dangerous or harmful to the general public as Caller ID "spoofing". Though it is not considered "spoofing", requiring the proper implementation of Caller ID from carriers would help diminish the misuse of the information.

With this and other stipulations put in place, The "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010" will have a major impact on the telemarketing industry. In some minds, direct marketing telemarketers can be divided into two categories; telemarketers that are ethical and do not misrepresent themselves to call recipients, and telemarketers that are untruthful so as to coerce a person into conducting business with them. The FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have a set of rules known as Telemarketing Sales Rules (TSR), which state that a telemarketer must either use their company name or the name of a specific campaign for which they are calling for Caller ID delivery. However, this becomes irrelevant because the specifications of the new bill do not mandate service providers to deliver those names anyway. If the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010" required capable carriers to offer Caller ID to their customers and deliver accurate information of an available name in any recognized NANP CNAM database, ethical telemarketers would not be wrongly accused of attempting to misrepresent a company, while unethical telemarketers would find it increasingly difficult to avoid being identified.

From a true technical perspective, Caller ID "spoofing" is not completely preventable. An accurate number validation technology can only be helpful in determining the real name stored in the NANP CNAM databases or determining if there is actually a name stored in relation to a specific phone number. The most significant step any ethical telemarketing company should take in preventing the dissemination of inaccurate Caller ID information is to check with the end users when they are contacted to evaluate what name is showing up on the other end. If the information is incorrect, the company should contact their service provider and insist that the proper name be stored in a recognized NANP CNAM database.

The telemarketing industry, with support from the American Teleservices Association (ATA), has put forth a considerable amount of effort in self regulating the misuse of Caller ID. In addition, the recipients of direct telemarketing can avoid being manipulated by "spoofing" by using the form at to file a complaint. The "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010" is a step in the right direction of decreasing the manipulation of Caller ID. Nonetheless, there is room for improvements that will make the bill more effective in prohibiting the manipulation of caller identification information and ensuring the privacy and safety of call recipients.

About the Author:
Greg Smith is the chairman, president and CEO of Accudata Technologies. Upon joining Accudata in 2002 as CEO, Accudata has developed a number of new products and services, entered new markets as well as expanded into the consumer market with its caller ID smartphone application, Privus Mobile. In addition, Accudata has received more than 20 awards, including the Capital One Celebration of Enterprise, Deloitte North America Fast 500, Texas Crescent Fast 50, DFW Fast 50, Southern Methodist University/Cox School of Business Dallas 100, Comerica Collin 60 and the Tech Titans Emerging Company CEO Award.

Smith also served as an officer in the U.S. Army Airborne Rangers, was a professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point and was a world champion wrestler in U.S. Military Wrestling. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from West Point, a Masters of Business Administration from Long Island University and a Master of Science degree from Indiana University.
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