The Baby Driver of VOIP They’re Not

My daughter received some disturbing news on her voicemail a little while ago. It was from a phone number that, as it turns out, doesn’t really exist. Imaginary numbers are real, who knew. It was a random VOIP number. You’ve probably gotten a few of those by now. The number comes up on your Caller ID, but when you look it up, it’s weird. The part of the country might be right, but there isn’t a city associated with that particular number. This happens sometimes when you call someone with Skype. Skype, however, doesn’t sell this scale of calling.

Allstream, however, does license out its inner workings to companies who take their service, calling from random numbers, and running assorted scams. The one my daughter received, full voice-mail screenshot below, details how her Social Security Number has been suspended and arrest warrants will soon be served on her unless she calls them back.

The scam works like this, my daughter, for example, would call back. They’d ask for her Social Security Number and she’d give it. Then they’d make some crap up while using her number to do all sorts of things like get credit cards, sell her house, buy a car… all those wonderful scam things they do. Well, here’s something you should be made aware of, because the number in that picture may not be the number you’re called from, your Social Security Number CAN’T be suspended. They don’t do that. Anyone who asks for that number, never give it. Seriously. It’s just a bad idea.

Can we stop the scammers? Well, not really. We can’t trace them. Their calls are being routed through a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol – think Skype) company, in this case, AllStream. Let’s try putting this into a little perspective though.

Let’s say that someone robs a bank. There are four guys in the car when it pulls up. Three run in and hold up the bank while the fourth stays in the car. The three run out with the money and the fourth drives them away. The get-away driver. You know the role. He never really goes in the bank, but if they get caught, he goes to jail just like the other three. He’s an accomplice.

How is AllStream, the company that provides these anonymous numbers to the scammers, not an accomplice? I know there are many perfectly good uses for VOIP calling. I use it myself when I do interviews. It’s easy to record, easy to use, and usually has a good signal… sometimes including video. There are also taxi drivers. They’re perfectly good drivers that do legal things all the time. AllStream, in this case, is not a taxi driver. They’re the get-away driver. And it’s time they were held accountable.

Now, let me deal with the complaint before I get it. The complaint is: isn’t your analogy like holding Ford responsible for that bank robbery because they supplied the getaway car? Nope. When Ford sells a car, that’s the end of their official dealings with that buyer. They may bring it back for service. They may move to Zimbabwe. Who knows? The point is, they’re done. AllStream’s service runs through AllStream. They know who is making the illegal scam calls and continuing to provide service. Hopefully, that clears it up. Would I love to see AllStream read this and change their policy and turn in the scammers? Absolutely! Do I expect it to happen? Of course not! They want the money.

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