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Stopping Illegal Robocalls Where They Start

RRAPTOR Takes on Fraudulent Utility Calls

RRAPTOR is a robocall surveillance platform that captures thousands of robocalls daily. It analyzes and groups them in many different ways, including matching keywords and phrases in the messages they play as well as inspecting the phone numbers that they use and the STIR/SHAKEN signatures they carry.

Some of the most troubling calls are those that prey on vulnerable populations with a false claim of something that many would recognize as too good to be true. A campaign that RRAPTOR has been catching for many months plays this message:

Hello. This is a call from your utility company. You have been paying more than your consumption from the previous few months. You will be compensated by $50, along with 35% reduction on your electric and gas bill. Please press one to get your compensation. (AUDIO LINK)

Over many weeks, we repeatedly shared examples of these calls with USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group, which traced each call back to the originating voice service provider that put the call onto the telephone network. In their traceback responses, those providers identified their customer and promised to shut them down. In all but one case, each of those customers was in Pakistan. It appeared that just as soon as one was shut down, another would pop up.

While the names in Pakistan kept changing, we found some consistency in the identities of the involved voice service providers. We reached out to those providers via email with a Cease-and-Desist notice which you can see here [LINK]. In our email, we said:

Because I think it is important for other voice service providers, government officials, and the public at large to have a better understanding of where selected robocalls are coming from and the providers that get paid to facilitate them, I will publish the attached notice on or about 26-June 2023.

I want to give you the opportunity to correct any errors I may have made in the notice, and/or to furnish your own remarks (including a link to your own web page, if you wish) which I will publish alongside the notice. Please respond to me by 23-June 2023 with said feedback, or if you need more time, tell me that and advise when your feedback will be available.

If you have any questions or want other clarification, please let me know. You are welcome to contact me individually or collectively.

Xpertelecom wrote back, saying: “We have ceased doing business and will comment over the portal in regards to this. Thank you.” Telxnetworks wrote: “Kindly allow some time as we are already working on ceasing business and we will update you maximum by Monday. Thank you.” (We didn’t hear more from them.) Telcast Networks told us that they are taking additional measures to screen their customers and, with respect to STIR/SHAKEN signatures on calls, said: “Yes, we are sending out emails where we are asking like many other providers to sign calls starting next month.” Going forward, that will help to quickly identify the sources of calls like these. We did not hear from MS TEL or VAULT.

We have been keeping a careful eye on this campaign. Volume is down significantly but RRAPTOR continues to catch a few calls. We will continue to share our findings regarding this campaign and the associated providers and will also investigate other non-compliant callers and their providers.

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