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Fraudulent Telemarketers on my Cell Phone!
August 7, 2008 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Telemarketers calling my cell phone. With spoofed Caller ID. For fraud. How do I send them to PMITA prison?

I'm one of those people that's very guarded about my phone number. Maybe 20 people on the planet have my home number, and about 5 people have my cell number. So when I got a call Monday night from (717) 432-5696, I was instantly suspicious. I didn't pick up, and they didn't leave a message. I Googled the number, intending to just let Google tell me whose number it was (a random couple in PA), but I noticed this page, indicating that hundreds of people left complaints about being called by this number and trying a callback, to find the number out of service. Those who did pick up said it was a robodialer (illegal!) calling their cell phone (illegal!) to sell them "extended warranties" for cars they didn't own (fraud!), and that the caller wouldn't tell them who they were (illegal!) and/or started swearing at them when they asked.

This morning my cell phone started ringing with a call from (323) 581-3046. I quickly Googled the number, but didn't get to pick up before I had an answer. But same deal: lots of complaints (starting today) of phishing-sounding requests for auto warranties.

I understand that it's easy to spoof Caller ID with a digital line / VoIP, which is what I suspect is going on. I also understand that, since I haven't picked up, I don't exactly have a strong case against these guys.

However, I refuse to sit back and let them keep at this. Next time they call, what can I do? (I've read of a *57 "Call Trace," but I don't know how it works, and I've read things suggesting that it's not all it's cracked up to be. More information on this welcome.)

I'm hearing rumors, BTW, of cell companies "releasing" the lists of their cell numbers. I suspect this is a chain-letter hoax, but can anyone point to something definitively debunking (or confirming...) it?

My cell number is not explicitly on the Do Not Call Registry, but my understanding is that, as a cell number, it's effectively there "by default."

I'm an unemployed recent-college-grad, so I don't really have the means to bring a lawsuit, but I do have a lot of disposable time. If it matters, I live in New Hampshire, and my cell phone is from Verizon Wireless.
posted by fogster to Law & Government (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Did you file a complaint to the FCC?
posted by smackfu at 11:21 AM on August 7, 2008


Forget it. No chance. Often these people are abroad and call via a IP2Phone network.

Never give out your number when online shopping. Get a voicemailbox (e.g. onesuite.com).
I was lucky enough to get a grandcentral.com number. They try to block SPIT.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2008


Unfortunately there's not much you can do. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is poorly enforced and it clearly appears to me that fraudsters/shady companies are beginning to discover they can get away with a lot of TCPA shenanigans without retribution. My experiences filing FTC/FCC/state attorney complaints since 2003 have been a complete waste of time.

I've concluded that the only thing to do is be flexible and be willing to change your number if you have problems. If your number is known by only a few people, that indeed makes it easy. For the rest of the chumps who need your number (like Blockbuster, Citibank, etc), get a Google Grand Central number and give them that... that gives you blocking options that are orders of magnitude better than the crappy ones from the telcos, and when your actual number changes you can just point it at the new one.
posted by tinkertown at 11:59 AM on August 7, 2008


Next time they call, what can I do?

The only thing I've been able to do that was even halfway "effective" (and I use that term loosely) was one time when they called (to my workplace via robodialer), I pretended to be really interested in their offer, talked with the caller for a while, then convinced the caller to give me his number, just in case we got disconnected. I have absolutely no idea why he agreed to this -- I think he actually gave me his personal cell phone number.

Anyway, for the rest of the day, I kept calling him back periodically, using *67 and different phones. This didn't shut down the operation or anything, but he was piiiiiiiiiissed. Overall, that's a pretty childish approach, illegal (that's Phone Harassment!), and really not very effective at stopping them from breaking the law in the first place. But if you have unlimited time in New Hampshire, it can be kind of a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Your other option is to just shrug and say, "Ah, well," and move on with your life. When this happened to me, it was about three of these calls within a couple weeks, and then none after that. So this probably won't be a major long-term thing. If what you want is phone-anonymity, the best thing to do would probably just be to forget all about this.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:17 PM on August 7, 2008


Your number isn't on the Do Not Call list? Well, there's your first mistake.

Since you aren't on the list, telemarketers are allowed to call you. So, put yourself on that list before you start complaining about unwanted calls.
posted by sideshow at 12:17 PM on August 7, 2008


I was getting these for a while too, sometimes twice a day, all from different phone numbers. I think a combination of repeatedly telling them to never call me again, or claiming to own all kinds of exotic supercars finally got them to stop.

"Sure, it's a 2007 Ferrari 430 Scuderia, but I can't imagine that the warranty would be expired already!"
posted by Venadium at 12:23 PM on August 7, 2008



I'm hearing rumors, BTW, of cell companies "releasing" the lists of their cell numbers. I suspect this is a chain-letter hoax, but can anyone point to something definitively debunking (or confirming...) it?


It's a hoax.
posted by knile at 12:42 PM on August 7, 2008


Since you aren't on the list, telemarketers are allowed to call you. So, put yourself on that list before you start complaining about unwanted calls.

Cell phones aren't automatically protected?
posted by fogster at 12:52 PM on August 7, 2008


Strange.. I've been getting these calls too. I thought they were odd but didn't realize it was a scam. I don't own a vehicle although two people I live with do. They never say what car it's for, just 'your car'. And then I started getting the same thing on my private home office line, which no one has the number to but my coworkers and it's listed under a different name.
posted by MarkLark at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2008


I've been getting these on my office phone. The fact that it wasn't specific about the make of car was a dead giveaway that this was a scam. And my work number is on the Do Not Call List.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:18 PM on August 7, 2008


We get up to 10 of these automated calls a DAY at my office. Never a live person though. All of our numbers are on the Do Not Call List as well.
(Sorry I don't have a solution, I just wanted to toss another data point in here.)
posted by Mamapotomus at 1:47 PM on August 7, 2008


In my experience getting a phone company or the FCC/FTC to care about anything short of grand theft is nigh impossible, there's just no budget for investigations.

I just get 'em talking and mess with their heads, imitate being mentally ill, try to convert them to Scientology, etc. Come to think of it they have largely stopped calling me...
posted by Skorgu at 1:53 PM on August 7, 2008


I recently started getting these calls on my personal and work cell phones, which is strange because I'd never give those two numbers out together. If you try to confront the people at all, or even ask any questions--like "what vehicle is this for?"--they immediately hang up.

It seems like this particular operation must be hitting a lot of phones. . .
posted by paulg at 2:03 PM on August 7, 2008


It seems like this particular operation must be hitting a lot of phones. . .

That's the thing! I feel like this is a major scam, on top of an irritating telemarketer. Hence my desire to "bring them down."
posted by fogster at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2008


This is happening to me, too!

Same telemarketers, same number, same extended warrantee bull- I thought the dealership I bought our car at had sold my number, and called full of grumpiness and ire but it turns out I refused to give them my number when I bought our car.

When I ask these people for a supervisor, their call-back number, etc, they give me the runaround too.
posted by arnicae at 2:17 PM on August 7, 2008


My cell number is not explicitly on the Do Not Call Registry, but my understanding is that, as a cell number, it's effectively there "by default."

This is false. Go add it to the Do Not Call Regsitry. Once you do, if you get any calls, click on the File A Complaint link and file away.
posted by deezil at 3:25 PM on August 7, 2008


Cell phones aren't automatically protected?

No, they aren't. It's just that no phone book for cell phones has ever been published. (And despite the viral emails, there are no plans to publish one, either.) So no telemarketer can look up your cell number to call you. Which means whoever calls your cell phone to sell you something doesn't know who they're calling. AFAIK.
posted by exphysicist345 at 3:31 PM on August 7, 2008


The Telephone Consumer Protection Act protects you from these calls on a cell phone because you must pay for the call (the minutes).

I've been filing FCC complaints each time they call me on my cell phone.

I also finally (it was not easy) located the real source of my pain: One Auto Warranty. I finally got results when I called their office (1-800-753-0870) and told them that:
- Per the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, they were breaking the law by using an auto dialer, calling my cell phone, using a recorded message, and refusing to give information about their company and contact information.
- I was filing one complaint with the FCC for each instance that they broke the law.

They said they would handle it immediately, but it would take 2 weeks to get out of their system. I agreed that I would wait 2 weeks before pursuing further action. The calls stopped.
posted by Houstonian at 5:14 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, there's no way to stop the auto warranty scammers directly. My office phone has gotten more than 200 identical pre-recorded calls from them over the last year, often two per day. Calling them back just shows them that you're someone who picks up the phone and responds to automated calls. That makes your name MORE valuable when they sell the list to other crooks.

I've read that cell phone software often can blacklist particular numbers, though, always answering with a busy signal. Alas, that doesn't work on land lines.
posted by KRS at 12:56 PM on August 8, 2008


I told them my car was a 1991 Cannondale F700. They stopped calling me after that but YMMV
posted by Redhush at 3:58 PM on August 8, 2008


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