You know all those calls you get on your home and mobile phones telling you that you owe money, a package is missing, or maybe you’re about to be arrested? Those are dangerous spam calls and, if most United States Attorneys General are right, most of them come through one company: Avid Telecom.
The AP reported on Thursday (May 25, 2023), that 51 Attorneys General filed a 141-page lawsuit against Avid Telecom. Founded in 2001, Avid Telecom offers termination services that allow companies to purchase toll-free numbers in bulk and automatically route calls to numbers of their choice.
According to the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Phoenix, Arizona, Avid Telecom used spoofed and invalid caller ID numbers to make billions of calls to those on the Do list. Not Call. In other words, the numbers you see on your phone are not the original calling numbers. However, more worryingly, the suit alleges that Avid Telecom made millions of calls designed to look like they were from law enforcement and government agencies. (“Hello, this is the CIA calling…”)
Lots of bad calls (and texts)
The fallout from these calls (and texts) is hard to measure. There will be, according to a recent study, 75 billion robocalls and 225 billion robotexts in 2022. Those who receive them or fall for their scammy, are usually connected 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 fake support personnel who guide the call recipient to download spyware onto their computer so they can monitor their keystrokes and, again, steal their information.
We are not
Avid Telecom, naturally, disputed the case and complained that the Attorneys General did not contact them before bringing the case. Neil Ende, a lawyer defending Avid Telecom, told the AP, “The company has not been found by any court or regulatory authority to have forwarded illegal traffic and it is willing to meet with the attorneys general , as on many occasions in the past, to further demonstrate his good faith and lawful conduct.”
On its website, Avid Telecom claims to have “full Stir/Shaken capabilities and required robocall mitigation in place” although the services it provides appear to be built entirely for robocall operations.
Stir/Shaken is the result of a partnership between the FCC and major telecom companies and provides a framework for identifying and authenticating callers. The problem is that cunning spammers are constantly developing workarounds, which is probably why our robocall problem seems to be getting worse and worse.
What to do
The suit, which came as part of a national anti-robocall taskforce is unlikely to end our robocall nightmare but if the states win the suit and collect millions (if not more) in fines from Avid Telecom, it may prevent companies from participating. these robocall practices.
In the meantime, however, follow these simple tips to avoid getting caught in the robocall and robotext web:
- Do not answer calls from unknown numbers
- Text messages are less formal than calls. Do not call the message number
- Don’t give out your personal information and if someone asks for social security, bank, or credit card information, hang up.
- Unless you have opted in, most government agencies will not send you texts
- No one will contact you by email, call, or text wanting to help fix your computer
- Caller ID can be spoofed. Don’t assume that someone local or official is calling you.
- Call the agencies directly to verify any information.
- Your bank doesn’t text you unless you opt in for alerts
- Don’t answer texts and calls. Instead, log into your accounts to check for suspicious activity.