My Turn: Put an end to phone scamming

Mik Muller, Greenfield Recorder. Published January 23, 2018

The advent of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has brought about cheaper, more flexible telephonic options, but also a deluge of scamming possibilities. Especially when one considers the capability many robo-calling packages have of spoofing or changing the caller ID presented when they initiate a call.

Daily, I receive up to a dozen calls from telemarketers and scammers. Most of the time, the number displayed by caller ID is not the originating number. Sometimes it displays as 000-000-0000 or 123-456-7890 or even local numbers to fool me into thinking it’s a local call. Sometimes, it shows my own number is calling me.

I’ve spoken with many people about this, and it happens to both cell phone owners as well as landline owners. My own 92-year-old mother-in-law has complained to me about it, asking if there was anything I could do to stop it.

Even more disturbing is some of the calls say they are from the IRS and that they have alerted the “local cops” about me, or that they’re from the enforcement division, and I should call them back. I actually received one of these calls as I was writing this. I called them back and a man with an east Indian accent answered saying “IRS Enforcement.” They are not the IRS, and I told him so. He hung up. When I called back, no one answered. They must be blocking my number now. Oh, the irony.

Frankly, I was surprised that the phone number even worked. Most of the time, I get a “number not in service” message.

I have written the FCC, urging them to make this an illegal act, and to further sue all cell carriers, mandating that they reverse-check every call to make sure the caller ID is a valid number, and is owned by the calling agency.

This is in the carrier’s interest. After all, why should they carry a call that is fraudulent, and which their customer does not want to receive? Verizon and AT&T and Sprint are paying to deliver these calls. I’m sure they’d rather not. But yet, they do.

Are the carriers thus considered part of a conspiracy to defraud their own customers? Certainly they are enablers, and perhaps can be viewed as accessories, or even accomplices, but at least abettors. They know this is happening, but have done nothing to stop it. I believe this is actionable.

After filing my complaint with the FCC, I received this message back:

“If your complaint is about a telecom billing or service issue, we will serve your complaint on your provider. Your provider has 30 days to send you a response to your complaint. We encourage you to contact your provider to resolve your issue prior to filing a complaint.”

I seriously doubt Verizon is going to listen to me, just one person. It will take a large number of people, and probably legislation.

Therefore I urge everyone reading this to clip it from the paper and keep it handy for your next scam call. Go to this website and provide all the info you can. Put in “Caller ID Spoofing” for the subject of the complaint:

I also call upon our elected officials to look into this more deeply, and write legislation that makes calling people on the federal do not call list an illegal act; spoofing caller ID an illegal act; and spoofing federal agencies a federal crime.

This isn’t just an annoyance, it is FRAUD, plain and simple, involving interstate phone lines and the public airwaves, both of which are federally regulated.

It is time to do something about this.

Michael Muller lives in Greenfield

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