You know all those calls you get at home and cell phones telling you you owe money, a package is missing or you might be about to be arrested? Those are dangerous spam calls and, if the majority of U.S. Attorneys General are right, many of them come through one company: Avid Telecom.
The AP reported on Thursday (May 25, 2023), 51 attorneys general filed a 141-page lawsuit against Avid Telecom. Founded in 2001, Avid Telecom offers termination services that allow businesses to buy toll-free numbers in bulk and automatically forward the calls to the numbers of their choice.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Arizona, alleges that Avid Telecom used spoofed and invalid caller ID numbers to place billions of calls to people on do-not-call lists. In other words, the numbers you see on your phone are not the numbers of the original caller. More worryingly, however, the lawsuit alleges that Avid Telecom made millions of phone calls to look like they came from law enforcement and government agencies. (“Hello, this is the CIA calling…”)
So many bad calls (and texts)
The consequences of these calls (and text messages) are difficult to measure. They were according to it a recent study75 billion robocalls and 225 billion robotexts by 2022. Those who receive them or fall for their scammer nature are usually put through to someone who is not in government or law enforcement and often tries to collect personal and private information: names, addresses, social security numbers and other personally identifiable information that can be used to steal identities.
Sometimes the call leads to bogus support personnel who guide the call recipient to download spyware onto their computer so they can watch their keystrokes and, again, steal their information.
Avid Telecom, of course, is contesting the lawsuit, complaining that the attorneys general had not contacted them before filing the lawsuit. Neil Ende, an attorney defending Avid Telecom, told the AP: “The company has never been found by any court or regulatory body for sending unlawful traffic and is prepared to meet with the attorneys general, as it has on many occasions. in the past, to further demonstrate its good faith and lawful conduct.”
On its website, Avid Telecom claims to have “full Stir/Shaken capabilities and required robocall mitigation,” even though the services it provides seem perfectly built for robocall operations.
Stir/Shaken is the result of a collaboration between the FCC and major telecommunications companies and provides a framework for identifying and authenticating callers. The problem is that crafty spammers are constantly developing workarounds, which is probably why our robocall problem seems to be getting worse and not better.
What must we do
The lawsuit, which came about as part of a nationwide anti-robocall task force, is unlikely to end our robocall nightmare, but if the states win the lawsuit and collect millions (if not more) in fines from Avid Telecom, this may deter companies from engaging in these robocall practices.
In the meantime, though, follow these simple tips to avoid getting caught in the robocall and robotext web:
- Do not answer calls from an unknown number
- Text messages are no more official than calls. Do not call the number in the message
- Don’t give out your personal information, and if someone asks for social security, bank, or credit card information, hang up
- Unless you’ve opted in, most government agencies won’t text you
- No one who contacts you via email, phone calls, or text messages actually wants to help fix your computer
- Caller ID can be fooled. Don’t assume that someone local or official is calling you.
- Call agencies directly to verify all information.
- Your bank won’t text you unless you sign up for alerts
- Do not respond to text messages and phone calls. Instead, log into your accounts to check for suspicious activity.