DOJ Implicates AT&T in IP Relay Fraud

March 23rd, 2012 by · 4 Comments

If you thought that three months after the T-Mobile deal died the US government and AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) might have shook hands and made up already, you were wrong.  Ok, maybe nobody thought that. But yesterday the DOJ accused AT&T of knowing that those Nigerian scam artists that never seem to get tired of filling your email box had also overrun the carrier's taxpayer-funded hearing-impaired program.

Specifically, AT&T managed to get reimbursed to the tune of$16m for the program, while 95% of the calls were actually from overseas scammers trying to buy things with stolen card numbers and such. They would use the the IP Relay's text service, presumably to not be so easily identiable as a foreign caller since an operator would then read the text out loud to the merchant on the other end. For its part, AT&T says that it was just connecting calls for people who identified themselves as disabled, as required by the FCC, and isn't responsible for how it was used.

AT&T's proceeds from this were, in the grand scheme of things, not much more than what they spend on gourmet cupcakes for FCC staff each year. It's not the kind of thing top management would have known about, it's more the kind of thing that some folks in the middle know and have their own reasons for not making a stink about it. Obviously AT&T as a whole probably should have spoken up, but in cases like these it's usually the case that lots of other people knew too.  It's just that they weren't getting paid for it, and apparently AT&T was - at $1.30/minute.

You just can't make this stuff up.  Had the US and AT&T been on speaking terms, perhaps they could have turned this whole thing against the scammers somehow.  Maybe redirected foreign IP Relay calls into a honeypot or something, to collect and deactivate the cards or track the organizations behind the fraud.  Now it'll just get settled by the lawyers for the lawyers and get written off in a few quarters, while the scammers just find another way in that nobody's watching carefully.

PC World has more detail, with a whistleblower figuring highly in the accusations.

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Categories: Government Regulations · ILECs, PTTs

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4 Comments So Far


  • Anonymous says:

    at&t has always been a fraud. America wake up and do what is right. Shut down the Bell monopoly “lock out”, very high wireless data plan charges and caps imposed on usage, including throttling use of so-called “unlimited” data plans.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/03/23/the-solution-to-the-wireless-spectrum-shortage-more-wires/

  • CarlK says:

    I am not so sure which Monopolist guarding their GATE on the outer edge of the last mile I despise more, Telecoms or Cables, Cables or Telecoms?

    Be it Comcast or AT&T, both in addition to the others use their political muscle and market power to add unnecessary expenses to our communications experience, while simultaneously robbing citizens of a more prosperous future in the form of blocking “access” and “controlling messages” which “CLUTTER” the very lives who would better seek their own paths to “The Information/Knowledge Highway!”

    Death and destruction to all Monopolists along with any Family Dynasties in America as well as the globe in their vain attempt to sustain such tyranny against mankind.

    We the People must cut the umbilical cords to these destructive forces serving no good except unto their greedy selves.

  • John A. Danko says:

    google Community Broadband Networks, and get informed about what’s going on around our country with regard to the “blocking” and “obstruction” of access…it’s ugly, and one would hope a concerted public/private approach to creating better access, for communities looking to keep the business and jobs they have, and stand a chance to solicit new jobs to their footprint, would be at least on the table…hmmm

  • Anonymous says:

    Cheap Politics – no freedom for the people – communications is all corrupt in America.

    [Editor: pasted article snipped, follow the link to read it.]

    http://www.muninetworks.org/content/big-bucks-why-north-carolina-outlawed-community-networks#comments

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