DOJ acts on threatening and fraudulent robocalls

laptop photo indie art southI remember a call I got from my elderly mother because she was close to hysterics. Someone had phoned her with threats related to her social security account. The caller instructed her to phone a number or be ready to deal with the sheriff, and to expect her bank accounts to be frozen. She called me and I told her to definitely not call the number as instructed. I explained we get these type calls all the time.

I wasn’t happy about whoever instigated those robocalls. Upsetting an elderly person who just had heart surgery is about as despicable an act as a robocaller can commit.

cell phone generic image Indie Art SouthYou don’t have to be elderly to get calls like this. The social security scammers have a sibling professing to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Another scammer pretends to be from Microsoft, claiming your computer has been compromised.  I’d imagine anyone with a phone has gotten these calls.

Now the US Dept. of Justice is attempting to do something about this. The numbers are astronomical.

In an announcement on Tuesday, DOJ said temporary restraining orders have been filed against five companies and three individuals “for carrying hundreds of millions of fraudulent robocalls to American consumers.” Most of the calls originated in India.

During one sample period, DOJ alleged the companies who are actors in this case “carried 720 million calls during a sample 23-day period, and that more than 425 million of those calls lasted less than one second…”

In the announcement, the Justice Dept. noted allegations:

“[T]he defendants operated voice over internet protocol (VoIP) carriers, which use an internet connection rather than traditional copper phone lines to carry telephone calls.  Numerous foreign-based criminal organizations are alleged to have used the defendants’ VoIP carrier services to pass fraudulent government- and business-imposter fraud robocalls to American victims.  The complaints filed in the cases specifically allege that defendants served as “gateway carriers,” making them the entry point for foreign-initiated calls into the U.S. telecommunications system.  The defendants carried astronomical numbers of robocalls.  For example, the complaint against the owners/operators of Ecommerce National d/b/a alleges that the defendants carried 720 million calls during a sample 23-day period, and that more than 425 million of those calls lasted less than one second, indicating that they were robocalls.  The complaint further alleges that many of the 720 million calls were fraudulent and used spoofed (i.e., fake) caller ID numbers.  The calls facilitated by the defendants falsely threatened victims with a variety of catastrophic government actions, including termination of social security benefits, imminent arrest for alleged tax fraud and deportation for supposed failure to fill out immigration forms correctly.

According to allegations in both complaints, the defendants ignored repeated red flags and warnings about the fraudulent and unlawful nature of the calls they were carrying.”

One afternoon when I was traveling with my daughter for work purposes, a scammer phoned my cell phone over and over. I didn’t answer at first. Finally I did and it was the ‘compromised computer’ scammer. It was very annoying, especially when you’re driving.

If these companies are guilty as charged, I hope DOJ throws the book at them.

There is nothing good to say about thievery, and it sounds like that is what these companies are enabling if the allegations are proved true.

Because of sophisticated technology, these calls can get through even if you’re on the famed ‘Do Not Call List.’ Worse, if you’re a performing artist and you use your phone during shows for one reason or another, those calls can interrupt the signal.

If you’re a writer or creator of content, you’ll also understand what an interruption these calls are when you’re in create mode.

Let’s hope this robocaller case proceeds to trial and DOJ wins.

(Kay B. Day/Jan. 29, 2020)

Stonehenge II in Odessa, Texas; photo by Billy Hathorn
Stonehenge II, a replica of the original, found a home in Odessa, Texas. (Photo credit Billy Hathorn at en.wikipedia)

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