WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday that was co-authored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, in an effort to protect Americans from the deceptive practice known as caller ID “spoofing.”

The legislation, known as the “Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007,” seeks to outlaw spoofing once and for all. Spoofing occurs when a deceitful caller uses technology to make the call recipient’s caller make the call recipient’s caller ID display a name and/or number that is different from the actual caller. Scam artists have used spoofing to make themselves appear to be calling from a trustworthy organization, causing recipients to feel comfortable sharing valuable personal information such as Social Security numbers. This information can, in turn, be used to carry out identity theft.

“Millions of people rely daily on the caller identification information that appears when their phones ring,” Barton said in his statement about the bill. “Unfortunately, criminals are using ‘spoofing’ to perpetrate fraud. Those who answer the phone and see the number of a legitimate company or charity are far more likely to fall victim to an illegitimate request for money or personal information.”

The Internet has made it even easier for spoofers to carry out their unscrupulous plans. Several Web sites sell the technology to make it possible; some even offer voice scrambling services to make it sound like the caller is of the opposite sex.

“This bill is drafted so that it will go after bad actors, but at the same time preserve the ability to mask or block caller ID information for legitimate purposes,” Barton said. “This is an important piece of bipartisan consumer protection legislation.”

Last year, Barton introduced an identical bill to the one that passed today. Though that bill passed the House last summer, the Senate didn’t take action in time for it to become law.