Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam...Lovely Spam, Wonderful E-mail and Telemarketing Spam...

We've all likely had about a hundred calls from "Rachel" at "Cardholder Services". This telemarketing-robocalling scam has been around for years. Several of the vermin perpetrating this garbage were shut down, but others have taken up the call, so to speak, and "Rachel" lives on. Apparently there are quite a few idiots out there who will give out their credit card number to the piece of excrement cold-calling their phone. There is indeed a sucker born every minute.

I've reported every instance to the FTC


and of course all of my phones are listed with the Do Not Call Registry. Sadly, there is one little problem: Criminals don't seem to care about breaking the law by robocalling, nor do they seem inclined to take the time to see if my number is on the DNC or not. The cads.

Robocalls are a subset of the wider universe of criminal behavior taking place on our communication wires and airwaves. In this cesspool, I include robocalls, junk faxes, spam emails, hacking of banks, stores, and other financial operations even including the treasury of my own state. The miscreants range from lone, bored teenagers creating crude phishing emails from "Bank of Amerika" to boiler room operations here and abroad, to massive hack attacks on our financial infrastructure. The scariest endpoint is having one of these rogue operations take control of a power plant, which is at least theoretically possible via the 'net; I don't want to think about the consequences of that one.

The question we are all asking is this: Why isn't someone doing something about it!!??

Someone is, but the effort isn't even close to adequate. Both in government and industry, experts are trying to keep ahead of the criminals. The technology of our networks themselves makes it possible to cover one's tracks to the point of being invisible to law enforcement. Thus, hackers, telemarketers, and other thieves can ply their trade without fear of discovery. There is even a "dark internet" hidden from those who don't know how to access it, where what happens on the internet stays out of sight. Supposedly one can buy weapons, drugs, and other stuff you don't find at Amazon.com. Perhaps most importantly, the politics of the situation perpetuates it. Many, if not most, of the major internet hacks come from China, and are most likely government-sponsored. Ditto for Russia. There are telemarketing sweatshops in India that call via leased VOIP lines here in the US, and show up as spoofed (faked) numbers on your caller ID.

I'm particularly upset today over a message from the "IRS", informing us that we owe $4,785 dollars and are in violation of some statue or other. Calling the number in the message (generally a bad thing to do) connected us to a boiler-room operation staffed by people with a very clear Indian accent. No racist connotations here, children, but that's the accent they had. They keyed their scam by telephone number, and were quite confused when I gave them the direct line to the real IRS. More on them in a moment.

It is a sad state of affairs that criminals have access to more and better technology than their victims and our protectors.

There are a few common threads here. First and foremost, this garbage is all perpetrated by criminals, hoping to separate the suckers from their money. And because their marks are either stupid, greedy, or both, many of them actually respond, thinking they are getting something they are not entitled to have, such as Viagra without a prescription, their share of a Nigerian prince's ill-gotten oil money, a no-interest credit card, and so on. Fear of the IRS is a corollary which can get the weasels in your electronic door as well. Caveat emptor, as always.

I'm not a Big-Government supporter by any means, but this is an issue where our leaders have failed us. Yes, some of the criminals have been caught, but many more jump in to take their place, and most of these newer and nastier vermin are located overseas, immune from prosecution. Add to that, the carriers themselves, phone and broadband alike, are either too overwhelmed to do anything about this inundation, or are simply satisfied to receive the fees from the bottom-feeders or those who resell the service to them.

The Internet is supposedly an international operation, and "solutions" such as isolating Russia or China, or Nigeria from US traffic would hurt more people than it would help. (Well, OK, maybe cutting off Nigeria wouldn't be a tragedy, but I digress.) Still, I DO think there should be sanctions based on the criminal traffic coming from a particular nation.

So, we come back around to what we peons can do about all this. We can try to recruit our Congressmen to get to work on this issue. Ultimately, that is how we will have to fix the problem. In this case, it takes a government to stop the juggernaut. In the meantime, the only thing left for us victims to do is to report, report, and report. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry, and tattle on anyone who violates it. Forward spam emails (with headers) to a service like SpamCop, which will find and notify the ISP involved. Get the telemarketer's phone number from Caller ID, and trace it down, using Google to start. In other words, Fight Back!

I did track the phone number from the IRS (Indian Robbing Scoundrels) to its VOIP provider, and that particular number was shut down. I'm sure, however, that the Banglore Bad Guys were able to crank up another US number within a few moments maximum. Just like smashing a cockroach; a dozen skitter out to take its place.

Perhaps the saddest commentary is from the IRS (the real one) itself. Its website has a link for reporting scams such as the one attempted on us. The first question:  "How much did you give the scammer?" There's a sucker born every minute, I guess, and criminals are very adept at finding them.

1 comment :

Phil said...

couple of comments - re the Russian connection - Krebs reveals WHO at least one of them is:


Also, I think that unfortunately it is true that the same technology that would allow us to end this sort of abuse would be used by NSA and the like against us.

I aspire to invent a technology that will be enable me to fire a very destructive virus across my phone to their computers. Alas, as soon as I invent it, they will have it, and use it against us.