DOJ Goes After Fake Robocalls, Phone Scams

fake robocalls

According to a press release that was released at the end of March, from the United States Department of Justice, telecommunications carriers from both New York and Arizona have been banned from transmitting fake robocalls in large volumes.

The bans come after orders were given in 2 cases in New York’s Eastern District.

VoIP Calls Prohibited for One Company

Two companies, and SIP Retail, owned by Nicholas Palumbo and his wife, Natasha Palumbo out of Scottsdale, Arizona, have been forbidden to carry any Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls for any US phone and also forbidden to share any phone number from the United States abroad.

The injunction which banned the couple from these actions was filed on Tuesday, before Friday’s announcement.

Spoof and Fraud Calls Banned for 3 Other Companies

Another decision that was reached on Tuesday was decided by the United States Department of Justice in a settlement with Global Telecommunication Services, Inc, Global Voicecom, Inc, and KAT Telecom INC. out of New York.

These companies were banned from conveying “spoof” or fraudulent calls.

This decision came after a consent decree was given on March 2 which banned the owner of all three companies, John Kahen of Great Neck, New York, from carrying any international calls or delivering prerecorded messages within the United States.

That ban pertains to KAT as well as two other companies owned by Kahen.

These calls are often made to unwitting victims who aren’t aware that they are being scammed.

Massive Scams Targeting the Vulnerable

According to the Department of Justice announcement, the Assistant Attorney General, Jody Hunt stated that the fake robocalls involved “massive fraud schemes” that targeted groups of citizens who are particularly vulnerable to scams like these, such as the elderly and others.

Hunt went on to share that the Department of Justice is dedicated to stopping this type of criminal activity and going after those who are knowingly involved in these scams in order to gain financially.

It is possible that we could expect to see more cases such as these soon.

The Companies Were Warned

The Department of Justice also explained that the two defendants had been given several warnings by AT&T that they needed to stop their activities.

They had both been informed that it is illegal to make fraudulent calls in which the caller claimed to be the Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration.

Impersonating government agencies in the United States, even by phone, is illegal.

Despite those warnings, the calls and scams continued, forcing the United States Department of Justice to act against the companies that were allowing these calls against vulnerable victims.

This new ban is an effort to stop the illegal activity and protect the American citizens who were receiving these fraudulent calls.

All too often these victims had no idea that the voice on the other end of the line was not from a government agency.

DOJ Sought Court Approval in January

The United States Department of Justice sought approval from the courts back in January to stop these companies from engaging in this fraudulent activity.

It was the first time that the DOJ had ever had an enforcement action against a telecom company because of fake robocalls.

These companies were responsible for allowing hundreds of calls to go through each month, according to Hunt.

While two of the companies were based in Arizona and three others were based in Long Island, New York, two of the groups originated in India.

The companies were operating out of home addresses in the states, and not from a company building.

While these companies did not make the calls themselves, they did facilitate them.

The Companies Were Paid to Allow the Fraud

Although the companies did not make the fraudulent scam calls, they were paid to pass the calls through to United States citizens.

They served as gateways for the phone scammers to reach vulnerable people who could easily be fooled into thinking that they were really talking to government agencies.

The defendants passed these calls through, allowing the scammers to use fake numbers to make the calls.

Those fake numbers mimicked numbers from government offices such as emergency lines, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) so that United States citizens could be easily fooled into thinking that they were speaking with employees from those offices.

Often, elderly people or other vulnerable victims were made to believe that they somehow owed these government agencies money, and they were threatened with fines and jail time if they didn’t pay immediately.

Millions in Money Stolen by Billions of Calls

Robocalling scams such as these have recently caught the attention of Congress after they reached a rate of billions of calls per year.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost by unsuspecting victims who paid with their debit cards over the phone in an effort to avoid going to jail.

Other government agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission have tried to put a stop to the fraud, but admit that it is difficult to handle these cases.

Since most of the criminals who perpetrate these crimes are overseas, it can be difficult to prosecute them in the United States.

This action by the DOJ is a significant shift in how the United States is taking care of the problem by making the telecom companies responsible for allowing the calls to be made over their networks and profiting off of the scamming of vulnerable people.

By going after these huge companies, they can make it harder for the low-level scammers to get a gateway into the United States and on the phones of unsuspecting people.

The DOJ is in hopes that it can stop these thieves from being allowed to have access right into the homes of some of America’s most vulnerable people.

Government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, emergency services, or the Social Security Administration will never call someone and threaten them, or take payments over the phone with a debit card to keep the person out of jail.