Call Masking Is Legal, But Is It Actually Valuable?

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Call masking is a service that allows you to replace your phone number temporarily with a stand-in or proxy number.

Often a standard feature of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services, it can be incredibly useful both for businesses and individuals for a variety of reasons.

Businesses, for example, can use call masking not only to control who can reach them directly, but also for employees to maintain their privacy, improve the caller experience, and increase the team’s call answer rate.

Similarly, individuals can also use call masking to safeguard their personal contact details in situations where they don’t know or trust the other party.

With remote working environments on the rise, call masking has become an increasingly popular way of doing business in many countries around the globe.

That said, despite how there are no U.S. regulations in place to prohibit the practice, it can still be exploited in ways that might be deemed illegal. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has introduced guidelines to help you avoid running into trouble, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is purportedly keeping tabs on scammers attempting to abuse it.

In any case, it’s important to learn about call masking so you know when to use it and how to avoid the common pitfalls of its misuse.

Screenshot of Nextiva call masking landing page with a learn more button.

Different Types of Call Masking

For individuals and businesses alike, there may be cases when you don’t necessarily want your phone number popping up on a caller ID. Call masking routes your outgoing calls and SMS messages through an alternative proxy phone number, keeping your personal information or business extension private.

There are three main types of call masking, each designed to suit different needs and objectives.

*67 Call Masking

Originally created for use on traditional landline phones, this approach also works well on today’s smart devices—but only for phone calls, not text messages.

To enable it, all you need to do is tap or press *67 on your keypad before entering the outbound phone number. Your call will appear on the recipient’s screen or caller I.D. as “Private” or “Blocked.” This is a great way to protect your contact details when dialing someone you don’t know or wish not to have your information.

Since private and/or blocked identifiers are often associated with spam calls, you may find it hard to get an answer on the first try. For this reason, it’s best to utilize this form of call masking when the recipient expects your call. Otherwise, you can leave a voicemail and choose whether or not to include your contact details.

Lastly, it’s important to note that the *67 method is not considered compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), seeing as it obscures your callback information.

Call Masking for Business

Generally more flexible and convenient than *67, this type of call masking doesn’t require you to dial a prefix before every call. Instead, this form of call masking automatically replaces your number with another one of your choosing or one that is randomly generated.

Most VoIP providers offer call masking as an included business plan feature. If you run a call center, you’ll definitely want to look into it while researching the best call center services for your business.

Anyway, since modern customers are highly unlikely to answer calls from unknown, corporate, or apparently long-distance numbers, businesses often use call masking with a local number specific to the recipient’s location. Apart from establishing a more community-based presence, this method of call masking gives your call a more legitimate appearance than a blocked label—thus improving your chances of reaching your customers.

Overall, business call masking tends to be ideal for client-facing and remote business models, as it can also be extended to SMS messages sent from personal devices—which keeps employee information protected.

In-App Call Masking

If you’ve ever tried an online dating app or created listings to sell items via an online marketplace, you’ve likely benefited from in-app call masking. This approach works precisely as it sounds, offering call masking capabilities within a specific application or program. Several popular apps, such as Doordash and Uber, include this feature to help protect private information and add a layer of safety while engaging with service providers inside the platform.

Instead of connecting with users directly, in-app call masking routes calls and messages through an API (Application Programming Interface). This means there’s a centralized third-party phone number that automatically conceals the contact details of both the sender and the receiver, ultimately streamlining the entire communication process.

Similarly, VoIP providers offer this same kind of service to individuals through their monthly subscription-based plans—and you don’t have to operate a business in order to use them.

So How Valuable is Call Masking?

For certain business models that are engineered to connect users to each other directly, call masking is a must. The success of these enterprises is typically built on communication between people who don’t know each other, so customers are only likely to trust and use the app if they’re guaranteed a certain degree of privacy. Doordash and Uber are prime examples, seeing as they obscure the personal details of their users.

Nevertheless, there are many other kinds of organizations that benefit from call masking as well. Any business with a contact center, for example, can have their agents use call masking to reach customers more effectively.

Similarly, ecommerce platforms like Etsy can use it to engage with customers, ultimately supporting stronger sales and a better buyer experience. In fact, virtually any organization that makes constant connections with customers can leverage call masking, including legal offices, health and wellness providers, and even entrepreneurs reaching out to prospects.

With that in mind, sales teams and organizations that place a high volume of outbound calls find call masking to be especially useful. For example, many companies use call masking in conjunction with an automatic outbound dialing feature to further support agent productivity and boost the success of various outreach campaigns.

Are There Compliance Risks With Call Masking?

In some cases, call masking can actually support compliance by providing a toll-free number for patients or customers to call back, even when calls are made from an office extension or private device.

Nevertheless, there are still bad actors and unscrupulous entities out there that have proven call masking’s potential for misuse. This is why the U.S. Congress passed the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, stipulating that you can’t engage in call masking with the intent to defraud, harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. Doing so could land you or your business in trouble with the law, with fines going up to $10,000.

When it comes to the precise meaning of this particular bill, the regulations don’t get very specific, so it’s hard to nail down exactly which practices can become problematic. However, a rising number of violations by scammers led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a public warning regarding call spoofing in 2022.

This is when a scammer uses a trusted agency’s number as a proxy to gain an unsuspecting caller’s trust and get them to share sensitive information. Most businesses don’t engage in this behavior, of course, so as long as you strive to maintain a professional approach in your use of call masking, you’re likely to remain in good standing with the legal system.

Keep in mind that the FCC regulates the use of auto dialers, so if your business operations fall under HIPAA rules, you may need to take extra precautions. For example, if your company wants to use any type of auto dialer to communicate Personal Health Information (PHI), you are required to get express consent from patients or clients. Interestingly, third-party texts, such as automated appointment reminders, are excluded from this rule as long as the third-party sender has signed a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with the care provider.

Staying compliant while using VoIP and call masking services is clearly possible, and many companies manage to do so without any issues. The most important aspect is to make sure that your team is aware of current regulations so that no data protections are violated. Once that’s under your control, you can ultimately use call masking however you see fit—so go ahead and make it an asset to your business if you think that’s right for you.

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