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Photo via Creative Commons

A Queens lawmaker’s bill to crack down on “spoofing” — a scheme where callers impersonate financial, police or government authorities to steal money or personal information — has been signed into law.

Congresswoman Grace Meng, whose district covers most of central and northern Queens, first introduced the “Anti-Spoofing Act” in 2013. The bipartisan legislation was signed into law as part of the omnibus spending bill on March 23.

In spoofing, thieves use technology to change the way their name and phone number shows up on caller ID. When residents answer the phone, the caller will then falsely claim they are from an official agency, like the IRS, and convince them to wire money or provide personal information.

Under the bill, spoofing attempts from abroad will be considered a criminal act. Previously, spoofing attempted were not considered against the law if the call originated from outside of the United States.

The bill also expands spoofing protections to cover text messaging and internet-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, which enable perpetrators to make calls from computers or tablets. It also requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regularly disseminate educational materials aimed to help consumers identify the scam.

According to Meng, spoofing is “one the the fastest growing forms of fraud in America” and adversely affects Queens residents. Callers often prey upon immigrants and seniors in the community, she noted.

Spoofing incidents in the district were first brought to Meng’s attention by “Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET),” a local civic organization.

“It’s great to hear that anti-spoofing legislation has been signed into law and I thank Congresswoman Meng for shepherding the bill through Congress,” COMET president Roe Daraio said. “It will help deter con artists from posing as the IRS, banks and other entities, and stop them from stealing cash or identities from unsuspecting victims. Hopefully, this enacted legislation will put an end to this activity once and for all.”

Meng introduced the bill with Congress members Joe Barton of Texas and Leonard Lance of New Jersey.

At February’s 109th Precinct Community Council meeting, officers at the Flushing-based command exposed a spoofing scam targeting the neighborhood’s Chinese community. Residents reported receiving scam phone calls from individuals claiming to be from the Chinese Embassy. The words “Chinese Embassy” are even programmed to show up on the recipient’s caller ID, officers noted.

Authorities encouraged locals who receive the call to immediately hang up and contact the precinct or the Office of the Chinese General Consulate directly.

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