Category Archives: crime

Why FTC’s Do Not Call registry doesn’t stop those annoying robo-calls — and how you can stop them!

The short answer: Robo-callers make so much money that they can afford to pay a fine to the FTC.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood of the Washington Post uses the example of one telemarketer to explain why those robo-calls keep calling you.

Virtually all robo-calls, whatever they’re selling, are illegal. But that hasn’t stopped a middle-aged telemarketer named Aaron Michael (or Michael Aaron) Jones, who lives high by spamming people with robo-calls. He lives in a $25,000 a month Spanish Colonial Revival house in a gated community near Laguna Beach, Calif.; has a personal chef; drives a couple of Mercedes; and has a gambling account at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Jones had paid for exclusive access to a computer program capable of blasting out prerecorded phone messages to just about anyone in the country, peddling auto warranties, home security systems and search-engine optimization tools. He works with a revolving cast of co-workers under the auspices of about a dozen corporations, as well as rents the computer program out to other robo-callers.

According to the FTC’s investigation, Jones was “facilitating” roughly a billion robo-calls a year, more than any individual the FTC had ever identified. On Oct. 1, 2015, Jones was called to the Washington headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to testify under oath.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood writes:

At 9:50 a.m., Jones and his attorney arrived at a fifth-floor FTC conference room, where two of the commission’s lawyers, James Evans and Ian Barlow, would confront him. But a curious thing happened as they began asking questions: Jones didn’t deny much of anything. When Evans tried to pin down the volume of calls he was capable of placing, he answered, “I did a lot,” then punched out an estimate on his phone’s calculator. Jones eventually grew restless and tried to move the interview along: “Obviously, the underlying issue is the calls are illegal. We know that already.Afterward, he returned to California and resumed robo-calling. In January 2017, the FTC sued him. Five months later, a federal judge banned him from telemarketing and hit him with a $2.7 million penalty. He didn’t bother contesting the judgment. […]

Jones, it appears, didn’t really care about getting caught. The same goes for the rest of the robo-calling industry. The financial rewards of bothering people on the telephone are clearly greater than the risks. “We continue to bring cases and shut down as many folks as we can,” says Janice Kopec, the FTC’s point person on robo-calls. “What we recognized, though, was we shut down an operation and another one springs up behind it almost instantaneously.” Hence our modern scourge. In 2015, the call-blocking app YouMail estimated that close to a billion robo-calls were being placed every month. Two years later, that number has leapt to 2.5 billion. At best, these calls annoy. At worst, they defraud. By far, they constitute the top consumer complaint received by the FTC.

In theory, there is a fix: the National Do Not Call Registry, created in 2003. Today, 230 million numbers are on it. The point, obviously, is to not be called. And yet the FTC receives 19,000 complaints every day from list members who have, in fact, been called. There is a battle being waged over the inviolability of our telephone numbers — over the right to not be bothered. On one side there is Mike Jones and his robot army. On the other side, there is the federal government and its list. It is clear who’s winning. But why?

Zuylen-Wood identifies some key players and moments in the history of telemarketing:

  • In 1967, Murray Roman, a public-relations consultant, first invented telemarketing.
  • In 1969, Douglas Samuelson, a Virginia telecom analyst, invented predictive dialing — a technology that allowed department stores, politicians and scammers to dial widely and quickly, while weeding out phone lines that were busy or unresponsive — which exponentially increased telemarketing.

Note: Hmm, Aaron Michael Jones, Murray Roman, Douglas Samuelson. Does anyone see a pattern here?

  • In 1991, Congress created the first Do Not Call registries, which were ineffective because the registries were maintained by telemarketers so that the only way to get on them was to call the companies themselves.
  • In 2003, Congress passed a bill to create a nationwide Do Not Call Registry, administered by the FTC. (The House bill passed 412 to 8, opposed by Ron Paul, Jeff Flake and a handful of other shrink-the-state types.) In three months, 50 million people signed up. Telemarketing groups found to have called any of the registered numbers could be fined up to $11,000 per call. By downloading the list of numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and then declining to call them, telemarketers largely policed themselves out of existence.
  • By the late 2000s, though, a new threat had emerged: robo-calls, prerecorded phone messages instead of live telemarketers. Legitimate companies began outsourcing illegal robo-calls to third parties. Will Maxson, an assistant director in the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, explains that voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) dialing “allows telemarketers to make lots and lots of calls for less money, from anywhere in the world. It also allows you to set up shop, tear down, move. All you really need to make a lot of calls is a computer and an Internet connection.” Combine that with an automated dialing platform, plus some co-workers, and you’re Aaron Michael Jones.
  • Robo-calls also employ another technology — “spoofing” or faking a telephone number enables robo-callers to call targets from numbers that bore their own area codes, and, simultaneously, throw law enforcement off their scent. (Now you know why so many robo-calls come from phone numbers with your area code!)
  • In 2009, the FTC outlawed almost all robo-calls, exempting those from political organizations, schools and other entities not trying to sell you things. Alas, the ban had no perceptible effect. From 2010 to 2011, the number of annual Do Not Call complaints jumped from 1.6 million to 2.3 million; in 2012, the number rose again by nearly 70%. In 2017, the FTC received a record 7.2 million complaints. The top violations reported were debt-reduction schemes, vacation and timeshare offers, warranties and protection plans, and impostors.

At the root of the FTC’s public relations problem is a misapprehension about how the Do Not Call Registry works:

  • When you add your number to the list, nothing actually happens. No legal muscle or technological wizardry  prevents a solicitor from calling you.
  • All the list does is provide you with vague recourse in the event you are called, by allowing you to complain that someone has called you, by calling a toll-free number or filling out a form on the Do Not Call website.
  • If the number you were called from shows up in enough complaints, the FTC will leap into action and prosecute the offending dialer. Except, it almost certainly won’t.

The main reasons why the FTC’s Do Not Call registry doesn’t and can’t stop robo-calls are:

  1. Robo-callers couldn’t care less because nobody knows who they are or where they’re calling from since they all spoof (fake) their numbers.
  2. More robo-calls are done every year because it’s cheap and easy to blast out automated calls from anywhere in the world.
  3. 1 and 2 make it nearly impossible for the FTC to identify robo-callers, let alone penalize them. At a hearing on robo-calls in October, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she was getting so many of them, she’d disconnected her home phone. “The list,” she said, “doesn’t work.”
  4. The FTC doesn’t have the resources to go after robo-callers, with an annual budget of $300 million (the FBI’s is $9 billion) and only 43 employees in the Division of Marketing Practices, which oversees unwanted calls, none of whom work full time on the issue. Ami Dziekan, who works in a different department, is the lone steward of the Do Not Call Registry.
  5. Since the robo-call ban went into effect in 2009, the FTC has brought just 33 cases against robo-callers. In those cases, defendants have been ordered to pay nearly $300 million in relief to victims, and nearly $30 million in civil penalties to the government. But even then, the FTC can’t force perpetrators to pay the fine if they argue they’re broke, which robo-callers often seem to be. So the FTC has only collected on a fraction of those sums: $18 million in relief and less than $1 million in penalties.

This is how I deal with robo-calls:

When a call rings and I don’t recognize the caller ID number, I answer the call but stay silent. If it’s a human calling, the person eventually will say: “Hello? Hello?”. If it’s a robo-call, after a few seconds of my silence, the robo-call simply hangs up.

After weeks of employing the silent method, I’ve noticed that the number of robo-calls has greatly decreased.

Let’s hear from our readers of your methods of dealing with these irritating robo-calls!

See also “Beware of cold calls from Windows Technical Support – It’s a scam”.

UPDATE:

Thanks to reader Roy’s advice, I just signed on to a service called Nomorobo, which blocks robo-calls. The service is free for landline phones, but costs $1.99 a month for mobile phones. I followed the instructions, and successfully enabled robo-calls to be blocked from my landline phone. Click here or go to: https://nomorobo.com/.

~Eowyn

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This is Chiraq: 16 people wounded in MLK Day weekend shootings

mlk jr violence quote

This was the stat when I scheduled this post on Sunday afternoon. Don’t be surprised if the number is higher on Monday morning.

From MyFoxChicago: At least 16 people have been wounded by gunfire across Chicago since the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

The most recent shooting happened early Sunday in the Little Village neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Two men, ages 19 and 23, were sitting in a parked car about 12:40 a.m. in the 2800 block of West 21st Street when someone fired shots, according to Chicago Police.

The younger man was struck in his left forearm, and the older man suffered a gunshot wound that penetrated through his shoulder to his chest, police said. Another person in the car drove them to Saint Anthony Hospital, where the older man was listed in serious condition and the younger man’s condition was stabilized, police said. The older man was later transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital, police said.

Nearly 4 hours earlier, a 16-year-old boy was wounded in a shooting in the North Side Rogers Park neighborhood. The boy was sitting in his vehicle at 8:24 p.m. in the 6700 block of North Hermitage when an unknown male approached and fired shots, police said. The boy suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his body and was taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, where his condition stabilized.

Two people were shot about 20 minutes earlier during an altercation in the West Side Austin neighborhood. The 29-year-old man and 25-year-old woman were at a gathering in the 5300 block of West North Avenue when the altercation broke out, and someone took out a gun and fired shots, police said.

The man was shot in the head and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition stabilized, police said. The woman was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park with a graze wound to her head. She was in good condition. The shooting ended a stretch of almost 16 hours on Saturday in which nobody was shot.

At 4:39 a.m. Saturday, a 27-year-old man was shot at a Back of the Yards restaurant drive-thru on the South Side. The man was sitting in the drive-thru lane in the 1400 block of West 47th Street when he heard shots and felt pain, police said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital with a gunshot wound to his left armpit, and his condition stabilized.

Three people were shot just after 4 a.m. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. Someone fired shots at a party in the 3900 block of West Arthington, striking three people, police said. An 18-year-old woman was shot in the neck and taken in serious condition to Stroger Hospital. A 37-year-old man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the right side of his face. The third person, a male whose age was not immediately known, was shot in the chest and back and was also taken to Mount Sinai in serious condition.

The weekend’s first shooting happened about 5:45 p.m. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. A 25-year-old man was shot in the buttocks near Madison and Kilbourn, police said. He took himself to Loretto Hospital, where he was in good condition.

At least six other people have been wounded in shootings across the city since 5:45 p.m. Friday.

Last year, 39 people were shot — 10 of them fatally — during Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

DCG

Illegal alien, previously deported, hijacks Greyhound bus in Wisconsin & threatens to kill riders

illegal margarito vargas rosas

Illegal alien Margarito Vargas-Rosas

From Fox32Chicago: The man accused of threatening to kill passengers on a Greyhound bus is a Chicago resident in the country illegally, law enforcement officials said Saturday.

Margarito Vargas-Rosas, 33, is accused of threatening to kill the other 36 people on the bus from Milwaukee to Chicago on Friday night. The situation led police to chase the bus, and then stop it with spike strips on the Illinois side of the state line.

The Racine County sheriff said on Saturday that Vargas-Rosas is an illegal immigrant who has been deported before.

No one was injured in the incident, which ended at the Illinois/Wisconsin state line when police laid out spike strips.

More details from WISN ABC News:

“A man who threatened to kill other passengers on a Greyhound bus Friday night was in the country illegally and has been previously deported.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Margarito Vargas-Rosas, 33, lives in Chicago but works at a restaurant in Milwaukee.

The incident started around 9:40 p.m. Friday when authorities received reports of an armed subject on board a bus from Milwaukee to Chicago. The Racine County Sheriff’s Office said a caller said a man on the bus claimed to have a gun and made threats to kill people. Officials chased the bus from Racine County into Lake County, Illinois.

Passengers said that people were yelling at the bus driver to stop, but he kept going. Schmaling said the driver though it was a training exercise.”

h/t Twitchy

DCG

Manning files to run for Maryland Senate seat

bradley manning

Manning: A convicted traitor

Just what we need in DC, another traitor to the American people.

From Fox News: Chelsea Manning, a transgender former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified documents, has filed to run for the U.S. Senate.

The Washington Post first reported Saturday that Manning has filed to run in Maryland for the seat of Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.

The Federal Election Commission website shows a Jan. 11 filing for “Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate” with the party affiliation registered as Democrat — suggesting a primary challenge for Cardin.

Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, was arrested in 2010 and convicted in 2013 of leaking a trove of sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. Manning’s sentence was controversially commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017 after Manning had served seven years of a 35-year sentence.

Since leaving prison, Manning has become known for controversial tweets, often accompanied with a series of emojis and the hashtag #WeGotThis. Last week, Manning tweeted out the message “f—k the police” on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, along with the hashtag #DisarmThePolice.

Manning has also referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as “literally the new gestapo.”

DCG

Sealed indictment unsealed! Uranium One business executive Mark Lambert indicted on 11 counts

In the last two months of 2017, from October 30 to December 22, a record 9,294 sealed indictments were filed in districts across the United States. Contrast that to 2006, when there were only 1,077 sealed indictments for the entire year.

An indictment is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. A sealed indictment is an indictment that stays non-public until an arrest is made. Sealed indictments are typically used in prosecuting individuals or criminal networks in cases where revealing names could lead individuals to flee or destroy evidence.

See “9,294 sealed indictments and the last time Hillary, Podesta and Soros were on Twitter

At least one of 9,294 sealed indictments has just been unsealed.

Two days ago, on January 12, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) formally indicted Mark Lambert, a business executive, for fraud, foreign bribery and money laundering in the Obama-Hillary corruption scandal known as Uranium One.

Mark Lambert is the former co-president of a Maryland-based company (dubbed “Transportation Corporation A” by the DOJ) which transported nuclear material, including uranium.

As early as 2009, the Obama administration’s FBI and DOJ had known about a multi-million dollar bribe, estimated to be $167 million, which the Russian government “routed” to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was secretary of state. In 2010, the State Department approved a controversial deal giving Moscow control of as much as 20% of U.S. uranium.

See “The real U.S.-Russian conspiracy: Russia gave multi-million $ bribe to Clinton Foundation for 2010 uranium deal

The press release from the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs begins with this:

An indictment against a former co-president of a Maryland-based transportation company that provides services for the transportation of nuclear materials to customers in the United States and abroad, was unsealed today for his alleged role in a scheme that involved the bribery of an official at a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation.

The press release continues:

Mark Lambert, 54, of Mount Airy, Maryland, was charged in an 11-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of violating the FCPA, two counts of wire fraud and one count of international promotion money laundering.  The charges stem from an alleged scheme to bribe Vadim Mikerin, a Russian official at JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation and the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide, in order to secure contracts with TENEX.

The case against Lambert is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the District of Maryland.

According to the indictment, beginning at least as early as 2009 and continuing until October 2014, Lambert conspired with others at “Transportation Corporation A” to make corrupt and fraudulent bribery and kickback payments to offshore bank accounts associated with shell companies, at the direction of, and for the benefit of, a Russian official, Vadim Mikerin, in order to secure improper business advantages and obtain and retain business with TENEX.   In order to effectuate and conceal the corrupt and fraudulent bribe payments, Lambert and others allegedly caused fake invoices to be prepared, purportedly from TENEX to Transportation Corporation A, that described services that were never provided, and then Lambert and others caused Transportation Corporation A to wire the corrupt payments for those purported services to shell companies in Latvia, Cyprus and Switzerland.  Lambert and others also allegedly used code words like “lucky figures,” “LF,” “lucky numbers,” and “cake” to describe the payments in emails to the Russian official at his personal email account.  The indictment also alleges that Lambert and others caused Transportation Corporation A to overbill TENEX by building the cost of the corrupt payments into their invoices, and TENEX thus overpaid for Transportation Corporation A’s services.

In June 2015, Lambert’s former co-president, Daren Condrey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud, and Vadim Mikerin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering involving violations of the FCPA.  Mikerin is currently serving a sentence of 48 months in prison and Condrey is awaiting sentencing. The indictment includes allegations against Lambert based on his role in effectuating the criminal scheme with Condrey, Mikerin, and others.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

~Eowyn

Blame the NRA: Illinois AG candidate robbed at gunpoint during photo shoot

aaron goldstein

Goldstein: Running on progressives solutions and TDS

This candidate’s solution to gun violence, from his campaign web site:

“As Attorney General, I will stand up to the NRA and hold them and gun manufacturers accountable for their role in the flood of guns that are besieging our communities.”

From Fox News as reported by Brooke Singman: A Democratic candidate running for Illinois attorney general was robbed at gunpoint Thursday during a campaign photo shoot in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Aaron Goldstein, 42, and members of his campaign team were approached by three men in their early 20s. One of the men had a handgun and demanded Goldstein and the campaign aides turn over the camera equipment and other personal belongings, including their cell phones, which they did. 

According to the Tribune, law enforcement sources confirmed that they had no one in custody and did not release a description of the suspects.

Goldstein’s campaign manager Robert Murphy, who was not with the candidate at the time, explained that he was taking promotional campaign photos with an “in-the-neighborhood kind of” message, according to the Tribune. The incident took place in Albany Park.

Murphy, a Chicago committeeman, told the Tribune that no one was harmed during the robbery, and that the campaign was assured by the police that the robbery was not a targeted act.

Goldstein, Murphy and campaign spokespeople did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Goldstein’s campaign Facebook page posted a link to the Tribune article, with the comment: “Thank you all for your concern, well wishes, thoughts and prayers. My team and I are all good.”

Goldstein is running for attorney general to replace Lisa Madigan and is part of a crowded field of eight vying for the Democratic nomination.

DCG

Spokane decides to outlaw immigration detention by police

illegal immigration

From NBC News: The city of Spokane has agreed to change its policies to make clear that police officers will not question or detain people to enforce federal immigration laws. That’s part of a final settlement the city reached Tuesday in federal court with the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

The case stems from a 2014 traffic accident when the vehicle of Gabriel Gomez was struck by a minivan that failed to yield the right of way.  A Spokane police officer responded and contacted the U.S. Border Patrol to ask whether the agency had any interest in Gomez.

The officer issued a ticket to the other driver and then let that driver leave the scene. However, the officer detained Gomez until the Border Patrol arrived and took him into custody.

“I have lived in this community for many years, and to suddenly have the police turn against me after being a victim in the accident really turned my life upside down,” Gomez said in a press release. “I want to be able to trust the police.”

City officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment.  Spokane is Washington’s second-largest city with about 210,000 residents.

Gomez was eventually transferred by immigration officials to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where he remained until he posted bond. Gomez is seeking legal status to remain in this country, the ACLU said.

The lawsuit contended the officer unlawfully detained Gomez for purposes of investigating his immigration status and prolonged his detention to assist federal officers. The lawsuit also alleged that city policies unlawfully authorized officers to take such actions.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to modify its policies to clarify that police officers “shall not contact, question, delay, detain or arrest an individual because s/he is suspected of violating immigration laws,” the settlement said.

ACLU Washington issued this statement on their web site:

“This is an important step towards ensuring that all community members receive equal treatment from police officials,” said Matt Adams, Legal Director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP). “The changed policies will help the City to move forward in working to serve all the community members, regardless of their perceived immigration status.”

“We’re pleased that the City has recognized the need to change its policies to prevent such unfair treatment of immigrants in the future,” said Enoka Herat, ACLU of Washington Police Practices and Immigrant Rights Counsel.

DCG