Making Spoof Phone Calls Can be a Criminal Offense in Texas

phone call

Scammers who use false numbers to make calls are a daily annoyance for many people in Texas. Making spoof calls can now be an offense after two new bills were enacted in 2019.

One of the new, little-known laws imposed civil penalties on telemarketers who violate the rules while the other imposed criminal penalties.

State Rep. Ben Leman, R-Iola, sponsored one of the bills in the spring, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Leman was moved to file a bill because of the large numbers of spoof calls his family receives. He said:

“My wife gets a ton of these. We talk about it all the time. The kids run to their cell phones to see who’s calling.”

Leman focused attention on the criminalization of caller ID spoofing. This is the practice of using software or an app to change the number that appears on a caller ID box. Often scammers may make a number appear to be a local number which people are more likely to answer. The number on the caller ID may be manipulated to look like that of a local authority, a police department or even your own number.

Leman described his legislation as the “Super-Duper Anti-Spoofing law.” He said criminals will be less likely to call Texans thanks to the laws.

Under House Bill 1992 which came into effect in September, it’s a civil violation to put false information in the caller ID. Violators can end up paying a fine of $1,000 per violation. Leman described it as a “stiff penalty.”

A second new law, sponsored by State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, added criminal sanctions for violators who misuse Caller ID.

House Bill 101 declared that violators are subject to prosecution as a Class A misdemeanor — punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.

The Texas Attorney General has a page on called “How to Spot and Report Phone Scams.” It provides links to file complaints and report do-not-call violators to the Federal Trade Commission.

Federal law already states that telemarketers must transmit a telephone number and, if possible, a name that matches the telemarketer or business on caller ID.

The legislation raises some questions such as how a prosecution can take place unless the caller and victims are both in Texas.

If you or a family member has been charged with a crime in Texas, please contact our experienced Dallas criminal defense team as soon as possible at (214) 720-9552.

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.