I cannot believe the amount of robo-calls I am now getting since I signed up for the National Do Not Call list a couple of years ago. I’ve received five today, alone. 2 were from AT&T supposedly telling me my phone was disconnected for “security reasons” and I had to input my PIN to speak to a representative. I put in a fake pen and then was transferred to some music only to be told that all lines were busy and they would call me back in 30-35 minutes. In the meantime I called AT&T to report it and was told, “There is really nothing we can do about it, but we do know it is a scam.”
An hour later got another call from AT&T (Private Number) and the same thing occurred exactly. I put in a fake PIN number and again was transferred to music for about 30 seconds and told they were busy and someone would get back to me in 30 minutes or so.
I have done some research on “Robo-Calls” and “Call Spoofing” (which is even worse to me than Robo-calls), because with all the spoofing I’ve even called myself. Yep, that’s right. One of the callers today was from my number and they wanted to lower the interest rate on my charge card to 0%. It’s already is at 0% since I pay the bill before the end of the billing cycle or use American Express.
I went to the AT&T website and got a bunch of garbage about how they know it is a problem and it is getting worse and worse but that there is nothing they can do about it. Randall L Stephenson is the CEO of AT&T and if he really cared about his customers as much as he claims the company does … he could do something about it. In 2017 AT&T netted a profit of almost $29.5 Billion on their $160.5 Billion of gross revenue. Compare this with the $6.7 Billion of net profit they had in 2014 (just three years earlier) and I’d say they are doing pretty good.
If we look simply at their cash holdings (see graphic below) I’d say 2017 was a banner year for them (and most likely all phone companies – though I have not done the research on all phone companies).
Keep in mind that these numbers are in thousands so it is $50.498 Billion and not $50.498 Million. A pretty good jump from 2016 – wouldn’t you say? I wonder how much they are making on the Robo-calls and Spoofed numbers, really? I mean after all if the people doing the spoofing and Robo-calling are AT&T customers … isn’t AT&T making money on them? Why would they want to shut them down?
I just listened to a 2-1/2 hour video presentation by the FCC and FTC Joint force on Robo-calls and Neighborhood Spoofing. They claim this is the #1 consumer complaint and the number of complaints nationwide increased from 3.4 million in 2016 to 4.5 million in 2017 … and they are still trying to figure out what to do about it.
They claim that consumers have lost more than $9.5 Billion alone on these bogus calls. Then they go on to brag about the $400 million dollars in fines that they have levied against companies doing this. Do the math … $400 million is only recapturing 4.2% of the losses and the consumers have been paid nothing. One of the companies charged was Dish Networks at a charge of $280,000,000. Incidentally at the end of 2017 Dish Networks held $1.5 billion in cash … so the fine was only 18.67% of their cash.
You can listen to this joint meeting here (though it is over 2.5 hours long). There is some good information in the video.
In this video, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai talks about “neighbor spoofing” scams where thieves manipulate caller ID information in ways that make calls appear to have been placed locally. The law prohibits callers from deliberately falsifying caller ID information with the intent to harm or defraud consumers or unlawfully obtain something of value.
When I called the Attorney General’s Office about the spoofing of phone numbers here in Mississippi, I was told it was perfectly legal unless the spoofing was done to cause fraud. I asked the person (I presume an attorney) where he got his law license because if the number I saw showing up on caller ID was not the real phone number of the person or company calling that is in, and of itself, Fraud — in my opinion. I got hung up on!
Anyhow, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai indicates the largest fine ever imposed by the FCC was a fine against a Florida Company selling fraudulent vacations across the country. It appears that the company (and he does not provide a name) was fined $120,000,000. Then he goes on to state that this company placed more than 96,000,000 calls in the three months prior to the fine.
Let’s again do the math. Assume that out of 96,000,000 calls 5% of the called people answer the phone and listen to the sales pitch. That would be 4,800,000. Let’s go on to assume that only 1/2 of these people fall victim to the scam and invest $500 (and I have no idea what they were looking for … I’m trying to low-ball it). That means the company collected $500 x 2,400,000 = $1,200,000,000 (yea $1.2 Billion). So, if they were fined $120,000,000 … they still made out with $1,080,000,000 ($1.08 Billion). Not a bad pay day even after the fine. That is a 900% Return on Investment if the company looks at the fine as an investment or cost of doing business. And, again, how much was returned to the consumers. No mention of this in the video.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad the FTC and the FCC have teamed up to try to do something about this problem … but in my opinion … it is not enough to simply fine the perpetrators. They need to take everything they have, keep their fine, make the consumers that were caught up in the scam whole, and give any of the remaining funds to charitable causes. In addition, the people that do this need to serve some jail time – but not country club white collar jail time. They need to be put on “Chain Gangs” and forced to improve the infrastructure this country so badly needs.
Now I understand there can be legitimate reasons to spoof a phone number. I’ve been told and read that those who have a watch that they use as a phone have to spoof their own number to the watch. I don’t know if this is true or not … I don’t wear a watch. But I can’t think of many reasons why cloning or spoofing numbers should be legal.
If I start a business of manufacturing drugs and sell those drugs on the street corner you can believe that if caught I am not only going to lose my business and all my fancy cars and other toys and home … but I am going to spend some time in the pokey. Why are we giving these thieves a free ride with nothing more than a fine.
Dish Networks was fined $280,0000,000 for breaking the law … and they are allowed to stay in business and keep $1.5 Billion in cash and all other assets. What’s up with that??? If they broke the law … aren’t they criminals that should be fully punished?
I wish there was someway and that I was smart enough to write a program so that all unwanted calls would be forwarded from the “victims” phone automatically to the phones of the State Attorney Generals office, the US Senators Offices, the US Representatives Offices, the White House and the Department of Justice. Then, perhaps, the Federal and State governments would do more than simply “fine” the predators that are out to take our hard earned money. Unfortunately, I am not that smart.
However, I am smart enough to start a letter writing campaign. I will be writing letter to the Mississippi Attorney Generals Office, the two US Senators in Mississippi, the four US Representatives in the State of Mississippi and the US Attorney General (Department of Justice). I am not going to write to the FTC or the FCC. They’ve already received 7.9 million complaints just over the past two years.
If you are interested in starting a letter writing campaign about this issue and would like to piggy back on mine (e.g. use my letters and put them on your stationary) … all you have to do is tell me your name and your state of residence. I will be happy to draft the letters for you and email them to you. If you are not one of my normal readers, you will also have to leave me your email address. If you got notice of the article in your email then I have your email address … but may not have your full name.
I am so tired of answering calls only to find out that is a scammer trying to find out my credit card information, my pin number or to extend the warranty on my 2014 Lexus … which I’ve never owned a Lexus. When the call comes in from 601-214-XXXX or 225-505 XXXX it is kind of hard to block it since it could be a friend or ex-client.
When you go on line to read about it their is always someone who wants to tell you ways to “defend yourself.” “Defense” may win football games … but only “Offense” will win wars … and I believe we are at war with criminals and government officials who really don’t give a damn. It is time to go on the attack.
As a side note … why did I mention AI in the title? Because, now there is Artificial Intelligence that actually sounds like a person and that can hold logical and emotional conversations with you. Don’t believe me? Check out the new Ruby Receptionist that many small businesses are starting to use. You can Google it and try it for yourself.
So, if mathematicians and computer programmers can write algorithms this smart … why can’t they write programs that will destroy Robo-calls and spoofed phone numbers. I believe they can if enough money is directed toward them. Unfortunately, if our government finds these people … they will hire them and forbid them to work on this project.
Have a great day and Don’t answer the phone if you don’t know who is calling. If it is important they will leave you a voice mail. That goes for calls from me as well, and I really hate it when people don’t answer my call but call me back minutes later … but at least I know why!