Is this even possible - given the resources of a government?
I keep getting these lame-sounding letters from the Pennsylvania (USA) AG's office explaining why they can't do anything about telephone solicitors calling my cell phone.
The reason given is that they are offshore, spoofing CallerID, and/or relaying calls through multiple servers.
But the cynic in me thinks that if those same calls were to a high-ranking politician, perhaps threatening bodily harm... that the NSA would be all over the perp in a matter of days - if not hours or minutes.
_IF_ the call originates outside the country, the State AG's office doesn't have the legal authority to demand info about the caller from that 'foreign' telephone company.
Also, the NSA, being a _Federal_ agency does =not= 'take orders' from _any_ state agency.
'Spoofed' caller-id is 'merely' an impediment to tracing the call, not an absolute barrier. Your phone company _has_ records of where that call that made your phone ring 'came from' -- either the line _within_ that phone company, *or* the 'trunk' from another phone company it came in over. (they are guaranteed to have that information, along with start/end times -- for inter-telco 'settlement', if nothing else). If the call came to them from 'another phone company', then _that_ phone company has the same information about where _they_ got the call. "And so on", back to the call origin.
Unfortunately, the telco 'settlement' data is _NOT_ organized in a manner that makes it 'easy' to find a particular call record. Thus telco's will frequently claim that the information requested is just 'not available'.
Tracing a call back to it's origin this way is slow, time-consuming, and _expensive_.
It is a fact -- an unfortunate one, but a *fact* nonetheless -- that the State AG office has a _limited_ budget to work with. They _have_ to 'prioritize' the things they investigate and/or prosecute. How they do that _is_ their prerogative. Generally, they go for the things that give the most benefit to the most people, for the least 'cost'.
Like it or not, the 'proscribed' calls to your cell phone _are_ a very low priority item -- tracking down and eliminating any _particular_ perpetrator simply wouldn't make much of an impact on =any= recipient of those calls, *NOR* would it make any significant difference in the over-all problem.
Now, if -you- can identify _who_ the caller is, and establish that they're inside the U.S.A., such a complaint to the AG has a _much_ better chance of action. In fact, you can also sue them directly.
Tracing the calls is probably difficult. But they don't need to trace them. All they need to do is follow the money.
The solicitors calling your cell phone (or your home phone) want money from you, probably via credit card. If the AG's office gave a crap, they could figure out where the money went and bust the callers that way.
We do have call blocking, *60. My experience with it was never very good. It often didn't work and when it did the caller got an announcement saying their number was blocked. So they would just call from a cell phone, modem line (this was the 1990s), their work number, etc. usually angry we had blocked their number. At the time I was having problems with a couple of people.
Nowadays I always give out my Google Voice number because I can block callers and they receive a message saying the number isn't in service. But as I've mentioned here before a newspaper I did business with 2+ years ago continues to call me everyday trying to get me to resubscribe. I see it in my logs, but the call never makes it through.
This is a self-serving arms race for telcos: even if your basic access rate is regulated, optional features probably aren't, so they charge a significant fraction - almost half, in Bell Canada's case - of the basic monthly rate to allow people to see the number of people who are calling. Now allow callers to block caller ID and, when subscribers complain about wasting money on caller ID, offer (for another additional fee, of course) a service that diverts calls with blocked caller ID.* Oh, and offer to bundle the two services at a discount to show how generous you are, but add in a third unrelated service that the customer may or may not want so it still costs about as much as those two features they wnat just to get some control over who they talk to. Pardon the rant, but it gets very frustrating when a company's business model seems to be based on causing their customers grief... and I'm not even talking about customer service or billing disputes yet!
Years ago I knew someone who subscribed to "Call Privacy", a service that diverrted calls with blocked ID, asked the caller to record a message, put the call on hold, rang the destination number and played the message giving the answerer the choice of talking to the caller. (I'm willing to bet that plenty of nasty and abusive messages were left in lieu of harassing people live, but would be another story.) When Bell [Canada] Mobility decided that all their cellphone subsribers' calls would have automatic blocked caller ID, without asking or even notifying the subscriber, I found my calls to some people blocked until I culd convince someone at Bell Mobility that this feature - offered by their own sister company - made automatically blocked caller ID undesirable and could they just unsubscribe me from the service. ("Yes, I know it's free but I just explained to you why, even for free, I don't want it!") I don't recall whether the additional airtime was an issue as I recorded the message and waited to find out whether someone was even home, let alone interested in talking to me; it certainly would have been cheaper just to hang up if no one answered after several rings.
If it weren't such a hassle, it would be kind of funny to note that the apparent increase in faked caller ID is bringing telephony slowly closer to the e-mail world, where the existing protocols don't include (or don't enforce) robust sender identification or filtering, and how a new protocol that solves the problem isn't likely to be adopted due to the installed base of contacts using the 'old' system... oh, and the infrastructure providers aren't interested in incurring the cost of solving 'your' problem, anyway.
I would love it if this were true. Especially if you could collect enough to make it pay to sue them.
But at least in California, the service has limitations that make it useless: (1) The number to be blocked must be within your local service area (LATA); they won't allow blocking of other numbers even if caller-ID shows them. (2) Blocked callers can still get you by calling the Operator. This should never have been allowed.
If those were the only problems with it, I'd simply buy or build a gadget that captures Caller ID and lets me block as many numbers or ranges of numbers as I please. But even that is futile, because spoofing is easy.
Indeed, this security blog reveals that spoofing is openly offered as a service you can buy over the internet:
So unless we can get the police to prosecute the likes of spooftel.com, there's no hope.
After getting several unsolicited spam text messages, I turned off the texting capability to my cell phone. This is a slight inconvenience, mainly since no response is issued to people who text me. (That is, someone who attempts to text me will _not_ get a message "texts blocked" and will think his text has gone through.)
I am annoyed that the carriers aren't more aggressive in chasing down spammers and blocking their networks from them. further, the large carriers should see that the national networks have better control as to who may have direct access to it. Given the volume of illegal calls, obviously access is too liberal or more controls are needed.
I have not yet heard a reason why challenge-response would not work.
Doesn't mean there isn't such a reason, but the way things are headed, challenge-response seems like the only practical approach. The Powers That Be at Earthlink seem to have decided that in the context of email.
Granted that it adds a nuisance factor for the innocent, but once that phone starts ringing 10-12 times a day with some bottom feeder on the other end, what're we gonna do?
"Hello, you have reached 123-456-7890. Please press 1 for Dave Please press 2 for Sam Please press 3 for Sue Please press 4 for Phil Please press 5 for Doris Please press 6 for Fred Please press 7 for Mannie Please press 8 for Moe Please press 9 for Jack"
Where I'm Jack, pressing 9 at any time makes my phone ring, and pressing anything else drops the caller into a phony "Please leave a message at the tone" or some alternative universe defined by me or the service provider.
Seems like minimal inconvenience to my friends/customers once they know to just press "9" as soon as they hear the pickup.
As the 'bot programmers catch on - or maybe even from day one - it could be expanded to two or three digits and maybe the prompt changed to "Please enter the extension of the person you want to speak with".
Come to think of it, that would be the more intuitive approach for first callers: I just give them my phone number with the qualification that I am on "Extension 123".
But I kind of like the first one for it's potential to eat up man hours on the telephone solicitors - especially with the right alternative universe defined.
In that case, I think the misanthrope in me might even look forward to pre-political election periods.... -)
Making 'marketing' calls to a cell phone, or to a residential number on the Federal "Do Not Call" list, *is* prohibited by Federal statute. 47 USC 227. (Aside, the FCC and/or FTC _will_ take action, if they get enough 'legally admissible' -- i.e. where the caller can be reliably identified -- complaints to warrant it.)
For a private lawsuit, 'statutory' damages are a minimum of $500 _per_call_. If you can convince the Judge that it was a 'willful' violation -- 'spoofed' caller-ID makes that a slam-dunk :) -- the statute provides for trebling the damages award. So you have a potential $1,500 award _per_call_ made. [Note: in virtually all jurisdictions, neither side is allowed to use a lawyer during the trial.]
A 'small-claims' filing is "petty cash". *IF* they are _legally_ doing business in the state, they are required to have an 'in state' agent for legal purposes. This is on file with the Secretary of State in each state. (Note: if they're -not- on file there, the SoS office is likely to be 'interested' because such 'failure to register' =is= a violation of State law.) You probably =would= have to file in the county _where_ said agent is located.
The 'real fun' for a small-claims action could be in "discovery" -- asking them to produce records of 'all similar calls' made for some 'reasonable' (say, 'last three years') time period, and evidence of what tests they made to prevent calling proscribed numbers. A _pattern_ of proscribed calls would be near-compelling evidence for a treble-damages award. Not to mention fodder for a 'real court' "class action" suit
There are commercially available devices that let you do exactly that, and more. e.g. dump 'known bad' callers, pass 'known good' callers through, and handle 'unknown' callers with any of several sorts of 'challenges', before ringing the 'protected' phone(s).
IF somebody uses a service like that for _criminal_ use -- e.g. harassment, threats, stalking, etc. -- then, in addition to prosecuting the actual caller, the service _could_ be prosecuted for 'aiding and abetting' the crime, or, possibly, "accessory before the fact".
That said, not _all_ uses of such a service are criminal. This makes it
-very- difficult to legislate such services out of business.
- Stringing along the caller until they reveal enough information to positively identify them
- Somehow convincing a judge that I really did carry on the conversation I'm citing.
The ones I've tried to string along so far seem to have the evasion thing down pretty well. They keep wanting to know more things about *me* but don't reveal anything about them (as in where they are located and/or their phone number).... and tend to terminate the call when I lean too hard.