Friday, June 10

Nigerian Scams taken to a new low

I saw a belated but fairly interesting story on 419 scams on NBC this week, which reminded me that I intended on blogging about an overlooked aspect of these scams.

The Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) is a 24/7, toll-free system that the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing use to make telephone calls to the hearing world. It is one of a few government programs that work extremly well with no direct cost to the user. Unfortunately, teen-age boys and scam artists appear to be on the verge of bringing the system down.

Follows is a repost of the article that I posted to Boing Boing several months ago about the 419 scams and TRS. Can you tell I'm pretty hot about the whole thing? The bulletin-board I reference is a great read--lots of TRS operators blowing off steam about their jobs in a way thats make me glad that I am only a telephone bill collector, and how often do you hear that?

Nigerian Scams Using IP Relay (original Boing Boing post)
Relay operators, who help the Deaf with phone calls, are required not to interfere with phone calls. People can even make drug deals on the phone, and the relay operator is not supposed to do anything but convey the information. Boing Boing reader deadmandancing reports that relay operators have their own forum to discuss situations in which they know one party in a phone call is being scammed. Some offer hints on how to get around the rules and report suspected fraudsters.

Deadmandancing says: "IP Relay is free to use, and is intended for the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing/Speech Impaired to be able to comunicate through operators to non-impaired friends, family and businesses.

"The site is a forum for these operators, and boy are these guys PISSED at having to spend literally hours a day helping Nigerian scam-artists abuse the system to prey on businesses. The operators are required to remain 'transparent' -- they must repeat verbatim what is said by the scammer with no commentary, and are not allowed to disconnect even the most blatantly abusive calls.

"This form of the scam is harmful on many levels and endangers a useful, free service for the Deaf. Big Telecoms seem to have little interest in stopping these guys due to the $1.35 they get per minute per relay call.

"The forum has general ranting along with some interesting and inventive methods operators have devloped to try to put a stop to some of this, often with the real possibility of being fired."

Got a call that I wasn't sure about then found out it had to do with a flight to you-know-where. Didn't have a whole lot of information from the least not enough to make a decent report. So, I got on relay and called the sugar mamma back. She thought I was the perp the whole time and gave me all the information I asked for. Reported to the credit card company and the airline. The perp is going down hard.
In the last week, my reports have saved well over 10,000 dollars in fraudulent activity. I'd say that was well worth it. The confidentiality clause that you signed doesn't mean you should have to compromise your moral obligations. I find it ethically and morally reprehensible that relay centers enforce rules that protect people who phone in bomb threats, discuss details of crimes, and prey on the innocent and I will not be bound by a contract that my conscience won't let me follow.
Link to the 419 scams TTY forum.

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