Customer Takes T-Mobile US to Court After Scammer Threatens Family

A T-Mobile customer in the USA is taking the telco to court after she and members of her close family were targeted by a scammer who left threatening voice messages. According to a report by ABC Action News, Chelsea Wilson has filed a small claims suit against T-Mobile for failing to block the fraudster’s calls, with her attorney claiming that the telco should have recognised and blocked the threat.

Wilson said in an interview with the news channel that the caller’s number came through as all zeros and she suspected it to be a scam, so she let it go through to voicemail. The caller left a message saying a “formal complaint” for fraud had been filed against her in Hillsborough County. He knew her name, home address, and all the names and numbers of her close family members, whom he called straight afterwards. He said authorities might show up at her workplace or home.

In an emailed response to the news channel, T-Mobile said customers are automatically alerted when an incoming call is likely to be a scam.

Commsrisk has previously reported on the epidemic of robocalls in the US fuelled by cheap voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services. An increasing proportion are instigated by criminals trying to scam the recipient. This case is unusual in that the scammers knew a lot about the victim and were sophisticated in how they used that knowledge.

This case also involves the deliberate manipulation of what Americans refer to as “caller IDs” i.e. the apparent number of the calling party as seen on the recipient’s phone. US telcos are currently implementing the SHAKEN/STIR protocol to authenticate the originating number, with AT&T and Comcast recently announcing the first authenticated call between two US networks. The US comms regulator has been pushing the industry to adopt SHAKEN/STIR.

Nuisance calls are becoming such an intrusion that Congress is looking for ways to crack down on them. A bipartisan bill would force telephone companies to try much harder to identify and block robocalls. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. has introduced a bill in the House to try to close the loophole on autodiallers who today take advantage of outdated legal language, according to the Washington Post.

Marianne Curphey
Marianne Curphey
Marianne Curphey is an award-winning freelance writer, blogger and columnist. She is a former Editor of Guardian Money online, City News Editor of The Guardian, Insurance Correspondent of The Times and Deputy Personal Finance Editor at The Times.