SALT LAKE CITY — A lawmaker wants to make it a crime in Utah to deceive someone who displays phony caller ID information on a call or text message.
Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, said so-called "spoofing" services make it easy for someone to appear to be calling or texting from a fake phone number to confuse or scam the recipient.
"I just want to make sure that people can't create confusion, create fear by misrepresenting who they are," Lifferth said.
He cited a recent nationwide scam where people pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents masked their caller ID to make it look like they were calling from the IRS.
Federal law already prohibits anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
Lifferth's bill would make it a misdemeanor in the state for someone to use a false or misleading phone number on a call or text if they intend to deceive someone about who they are.
Violators could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill, which has not yet had a hearing, creates an exception for law enforcement personnel or if a court order allows someone to misrepresent their number.
Vince Taylor, a spokesman for SpoofTel, a Canadian-based company that allows customers to choose what number will be displayed on caller ID, said the bill could target businesses and professionals who use the technology for legitimate purposes.
The company's customers include mystery shoppers who try to use different phone numbers when anonymously surveying customer service at companies, and doctors or lawyers who may want to call patients or clients from home without giving away their home number.
Fraud and scams are "a legitimate concern but banning spoofing is the wrong way to go about it," Taylor said.
Taylor said Lifferth's ban would be difficult to enforce because even without services such as SpoofTel people can find ways to manipulate their caller ID information.
Taylor said the company works with law enforcement, so if anyone is using the service for a fraud, their records will be turned over to police.
Several other states have passed similar anti-spoofing laws that have been challenged in court by plaintiffs who say the regulations can interfere with business occurring in other states.
Lifferth said he's discussed the issue with legislative attorneys and it's unclear if his proposal would face similar challenges.
HB 214: http://1.usa.gov/16zxGfM