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View Diary: The GOP's nasty dishonest robo-call barrage (84 comments)

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  •  ILLEGAL says geek w. 20 yrs. in telephony (12+ / 0-)

    I'm a PBX engineer with over 20 years in the industry.  Here's the scoop:

    FCC regulations: automated callers must hang up when the called party hangs up.

    This became an issue after robo-caller systems were preventing people calling 911 in emergencies.  In some cases people died because they could not hang up and get a dialtone because the robocaller would not let go of them.

    (Tech background: telco central office switches have traditionally been configured in such a manner that the calling party controls the connection.  The called party has to hang up for between 7 - 10 seconds in order to force the line to disengage.  More recently there have been design changes that minimize this issue, but it is not completely gone.)

    As a result of the 911 emergency call cases, FCC required that these automated calling systems hang up when the called party hangs up, so the called party can get dial tone back and make an outgoing call.

    It would appear that the dirty tricksters have found a way to circumvent the law by having the system release the line on each call but then keep calling back.  HOWEVER:

    One:  In many states the definition of "obscene, indecent, or harassing phone calls" includes placing repeated calls to a subscriber who does not wish to be called.  This activity obviously qualifies under those statutes; typically the violation is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 1 year in prison or a $1,000 fine.  It can be argued that the penalty should apply per call or per called subscriber, in any case this adds up to a potentially very large number of counts of that misdemeanor, which could bankrupt the GOP.

    Two:  It can be argued that the repeat calling also violates the intent of the "release the line" regulations because if a called subscriber has the Call Waiting feature, the additional incoming calls will trigger call waiting signals, which interrupt conversation briefly each time the little "beep" sounds on the line, thereby interfering with the life-or-death conversations of emergency calls.  For example, "He's having a (beep!) attack!"  Was that a heart attack, an epileptic attack, angina, a stroke ("brain attack") or something else?  This angle is at least worth pursuing, and if nothing else, the R's attorneys will have to respond to it if it's raised as part of a civil action.

    Three:  Misrepesentation!  Are they using suppressed or fake caller ID?  One of the most common technologies available to business subscribers, "PRI service," allows a company to set its own outgoing caller ID.  Normally this is done to enable a company's PBX to provide up-to-date accurate caller ID for all the outgoing calls from various departments and extensions in the company, for example showing the main corporate number as 555-1000, and the Customer Service department as 555-1100, and so on.   However, it is also possible to set any outgoing caller ID number you choose, and most interestingly, the telco switch searches its database to attach the listed name to that number.  For example, I could dial into one of my clients' PBX systems right now, change their outbound caller ID to 202-456-4141, and then when you received a call from a designated extension on that system, you would see that phone number on your display, AND the name "The White House," since (if I remember correctly) that is the listed number for the White House public comments line.  The point here is, if the Rs or their telemarketing agents have set their outbound caller ID to something other than their correct telephone number, it may be possible to prosecute them for fraud or misrepresentation.  

    Four: how to fight back:  If you get these calls, do the following:  Hang up, count to five seconds "(one thousand one, one thousand two", etc.), then go off-hook again to try to get a new dial tone for placing an outgoing call.  If you cannot get a new dial tone, i.e. the robocaller is still there, make a note of it.  Make sure you are getting their caller ID.  Almost every caller ID product has a feature that lets you scroll back over incoming calls, so when you answer a call you don't have to write the number down.  Your caller ID device will have a record of the date, time, and caller's number.  All you need to do is glance at the screen to be sure something is being recorded.  After the call is over, go back and write down what is on the screen.  You may see "private" or "no data sent" or a weird-looking string of digits such as 111-111-1111 that cannot be an actual telephone number (there will never be a 0 or 1 at the beginning of a legitimate area code or prefix).  If you get a dialable phone number, call it back, and make note of what answers.  If you each an automated message, listen to the whole thing and write down any identifying information verbatim.  If you want to record these calls, go to Radio Snack, they have home recorder-connectors; it is not illegal to record a call that itself is a recorded voice.  If a robocall ends up in your voicemail or on your answering machine, save it.  Voiceprints can be identified with extraordinary precision so a recording can be used to identify the person's voice, and thus prove the name of the entity for whom they were working, later in the event of legal action.

    Five: What we need:  Federal regulation (FCC) that simply bans ALL use of predictive dialers, automated dialers, and recorded broadcast messages except as used by public safety agencies (for example to call residents of an area to order an evacuation, as for example in a hazmat incident).   There is no other legitimate use of these machines, and telemarketers wishing to cut costs should have no standing.  Once this regulation is in effect, all telemarketers will face the level playing field of having the same cost structure, so it will not place some at a competitive advantage over others.

    Kos, I'm local, if you want to get in touch, reply to this posting with either an email address where I can write to you, or some other means of getting in contact, or ask for mine.  Free consultation for you & anyone you designate, on this or any other telephony-related issue.  I've also done expert witness.  

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