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posted by hubie on Sunday July 24, @04:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the records-that-tell-us-your-auto-warranty-is-about-to-expire dept.

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday ordered phone carriers to block calls from a scamming operation behind more than 8 billion robocalls:

The agency mandated U.S. providers to stop carrying traffic originating from the Sumco Panama company and the two people allegedly behind it, Aaron Michael Jones and Roy Cox. Jr., both of California.

The group is accused of making more than 8 billion robocalls to U.S. consumers since 2018, marketing an auto-warranty scam, records show.

[...] FCC data estimates Sumco Panama generates millions of calls on a daily basis.

Earlier this month, the agency sent cease-and-desist letters to a number of carriers to halt the calls, including Call Pipe, Fugle Telecom, Geist Telecom, Global Lynks, Mobi Telecom, South Dakota Telecom, SipKonnect and Virtual Telecom.

"Now that U.S. voice service providers know the individuals and entities associated with this scheme, the Enforcement Bureau will closely monitor voice service providers' compliance with this order and take appropriate enforcement action as necessary," Acting FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal said in a statement.

[...] "Billions of auto warranty robocalls from a single calling campaign -- billions!" FCC Rosenworcel said earlier this month. "Auto warranty scams are one of the top complaints we get from consumers and it's time to hold those responsible for making these junk calls."

See also: FCC Orders Blocking of Auto Warranty Robocall Scam Campaign

Anyone know how telephony works these days? Why is it hard to address robocalls and other issues like phone number spoofing? It seems since both endpoints of a call are fixed that it should be easy to tell where a call originates and from what number. Is this a common scam outside the US?

Original Submission

Related Stories

US Attorneys General Will Take Legal Action Against Telecom Providers Enabling Robocalls 24 comments

US Attorneys General will take legal action against telecom providers enabling robocalls:

The Attorneys General of all 50 states have joined forces in hopes of giving teeth to the seemingly never-ending fight against robocalls. North Carolina AG Josh Stein, Indiana AG Todd Rokita and Ohio AG Dave Yost are leading the formation of the new Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force. In Stein's announcement, he said the group will focus on taking legal action against telecoms, particularly gateway providers, allowing or turning a blind eye to foreign robocalls made to US numbers.

He explained that gateway providers routing foreign phone calls into the US telephone network have the responsibility under the law to ensure the traffic they're bringing in is legal. Stein said that they mostly aren't taking any action to keep robocalls out of the US phone network, though, and they're even intentionally allowing robocall traffic through in return for steady revenue in many cases.

Recently: FCC Orders Phone Carriers to Block Scammers Behind 8 Billion Robocalls.

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Sunday July 24, @04:55AM (7 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 24, @04:55AM (#1262588) Journal
    Far from original idea: caller/sender/mailer pays.
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, @09:48AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, @09:48AM (#1262604)

      Nice idea, but has it's drawbacks. America had this for a long time but still has issues. Now with 'unlimited' plans anyone can do this. There are laws against it, but they have no teeth.

      I've had this done to me a few times now. So far I can't see a way to stop it, even though I know who they are and how to find them.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Opportunist on Sunday July 24, @10:19AM

      by Opportunist (5545) on Sunday July 24, @10:19AM (#1262606)

      Just inform the public about the spammers whereabouts.

      This is America. With about 10 weapons per citizen. At least one of them will have the right idea to give this problem a lasting solution.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Thexalon on Sunday July 24, @09:11PM (3 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Sunday July 24, @09:11PM (#1262684)

      This slightly modified old-school anti-spam checklist seems appropriate:
      Your post advocates a

      ( ) technical ( ) legislative (X) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest phone numbers
      (X) Mailing lists and other legitimate phone uses would be affected
      (X) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      (X) Users of phones will not put up with it
      ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
      ( ) The police will not put up with it
      (X) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
      (X) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      ( ) Many phone users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
      ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid numbers in their lists
      (X) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for
      ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
      ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for phone services
      (X) Open relays in foreign countries
      (X) Ease of searching tiny numeric address space of all phone numbers
      (X) Asshats
      (X) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
      ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
      ( ) Huge existing software investment in PSTN
      ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than PSTN to attack
      ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
      (X) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
      ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
      (X) Extreme profitability of spam
      (X) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
      ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
      ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
      (X) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
      ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
      ( ) Outlook

      And the following philosophical objections may also apply:
      (X) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical.
      ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
      ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
      ( ) Blacklists suck
      ( ) Whitelists suck
      ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
      (X) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      (X) Making phone calls should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
      ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
      ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time phone numbers are cumbersome
      ( ) I don't want the government reading my phone calls
      (X) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:
      (X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
      ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

      Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
      • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Sunday July 24, @09:52PM (2 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 24, @09:52PM (#1262695) Journal
        Sorry, I don't buy most of the items you checked. For a particularly egregious example:

        No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money

        Then the call doesn't go through. It's not rocket science.

        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Sunday July 24, @10:56PM (1 child)

          by Thexalon (636) on Sunday July 24, @10:56PM (#1262701)

          If we could find the robocallers now and collect the money, we would be busting them more regularly for robocalling.

          Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday July 25, @02:18AM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 25, @02:18AM (#1262717) Journal

            If we could find the robocallers now and collect the money

            There is a chasm of difference between before and after.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Pyro_MX on Sunday July 24, @11:41AM (2 children)

    by Pyro_MX (17697) on Sunday July 24, @11:41AM (#1262618)

    > Why is it hard to address robocalls and other issues like phone number spoofing?

    Because it can be billable traffic from the carriers' point of view? That is, if the load caused by the robocalling system does not make it an issue.

    If there's no legal incentive to block the traffic, that the robocalls are not disrupting the telephony system and that bills get paid, there's little reason to act from a purely financial standpoint.

    • (Score: 2) by Nobuddy on Tuesday July 26, @02:54AM

      by Nobuddy (1626) on Tuesday July 26, @02:54AM (#1262939)

      they can double dip. CHarge the spammers for service, then charge users for spam filtering.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Thursday July 28, @11:21AM

      by FatPhil (863) <> on Thursday July 28, @11:21AM (#1263407) Homepage
      So if robocalling is illegal, they're profiting from crime? Do the phone companies care? They don't have to - they're the phone company:
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by wArlOrd on Sunday July 24, @03:50PM (1 child)

    by wArlOrd (2142) on Sunday July 24, @03:50PM (#1262641)

    If the carriers were incentivized to stop fraud and robocalls they would.

    IF the customer could easily report a robocall (e.g. *44 i.e.*$$ when they get one) to receive a $1 credit on their bill from their service provider;
      AND the service provider could charge the PROXIMATE SOURCE (i.e. another customer of the service OR an ADJACENT service provider) that 1$ PLUS a handling fee (the handling fee would likely dwarf the 1$);
      THEN the service provider complicit in the robocalls would either stop the calls or stop dealing with the adjacent source.

    The service provider KNOWS if the call originated with one of their customers or another carrier. They can charge either the originator, or the next chain in the crime. At least the first couple of links can be traced while the offending call is active, when the call ends the service provider can tell their customer that the 1$ has been credited to the account.

    If 1$ doesn't stop the robocalls, it can be doubled each week until the calls stop.

    If an adjacent service provider started getting lots of charges for passing robocalls, they would soon deal with the robocalls, perhaps by passing on the charges and additional billing fees to the originator or the next one down the line.

    If the robocallers are hiding behind a chain of service providers, by the time the charges have paced along the chain the $ amounts could be significant.

    The only one ringing the customers phone is their service provider. The customer is unable to identify the source beyond that.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, @05:39PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, @05:39PM (#1262657)

      This reminds me from back in the 90s when SPAM email was a huge problem. Some people suggested that it one should have to pay per email sent, something small like a quarter of a cent so that a normal user wouldn't be impacted much, but someone sending out millions of emails a week would.

  • (Score: 2) by Tokolosh on Sunday July 24, @07:13PM

    by Tokolosh (585) on Sunday July 24, @07:13PM (#1262670)

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DeVilla on Sunday July 24, @07:18PM

    by DeVilla (5354) on Sunday July 24, @07:18PM (#1262671)

    I have to start by admitting I didn't read the article. But this all confuses me. If the people responsible are known, why aren't they the ones being held accountable? If it's not breaking any laws, then why is anyone (especially those not doing it) being held accountable and should something be made illegal for the future?

    I think the carriers should not make it so difficult to take down the source of such calls. The call creates a 2 way circuit (at least virtually) and the carriers keep records because they are billing. Tracing down someone who "generates millions of" unsolicited "calls on a daily basis" really should not be as complicated as it is made to look.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by hendrikboom on Sunday July 24, @09:11PM (3 children)

    by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 24, @09:11PM (#1262685) Homepage Journal

    The trouble is that with present technology it is too esay to fake the origin of a phone call. When your phone exchange or company receives a phone call from another, it pretty well has to assume that the information provided is correct, though it may not be because the other company is complicit with the spammer or because its services have been subtly sabotaged by malware.

    Phone companies that consistently fail to have adequate security should find their outgoing calls refused by the destination phone company.

    Of course there will be phone systems in some locations that are sufficiently impoverished that thy cannot provide adequate security. Time to cry for them??

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Monday July 25, @02:43AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Monday July 25, @02:43AM (#1262724) Homepage

      Indeed... occasionally I receive spam calls purportedly from my own number.

      And once in a while I receive an irate call from someone who received a call spoofed from my number.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by NotSanguine on Monday July 25, @02:50AM (1 child)

      The trouble is that with present technology it is too esay to fake the origin of a phone call.

      Not so much. cf. STIR/SHAKEN [], which the large telecoms have already implemented, but the FCC has allowed smaller companies to drag their feet on this.

      Tightening this up to include *all* US telecoms would make a big difference. Which is, IIUC TFS, what the FCC is requiring some (but sadly, not all) smaller telecoms to do.

      No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
  • (Score: 2) by legont on Monday July 25, @02:10AM

    by legont (4179) on Monday July 25, @02:10AM (#1262715)

    I never pick up my phone even if I recognize the number. My friends know to use telegram while companies got to leave a message which I almost never return because they want me to call their robot and talk to it. I don't talk to robots, sorry.

    Having said that, the problem would be easily solved by double handshake. My phone could accept the call and instead of ringing call the number back and establish that it was really the number that called to begin with and only than ring. It does not work for the reason above. See, everybody spoof their number. When a nurse from my doctors calls me I see not her number, but the number of the office with a robot that I don't talk to. I am sure my phone robot would have similar attitude.

    Back to the point. Phone is dead. It'll never reborn. Nothing to talk about. Different systems are replacing it. Which systems and how they shall work is an interesting topic. I like encrypted public keys on a blockchain type schemas.

    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.