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Telemarketer Blows Whistle on Tape-Altering Scam 371

Posted by timothy
from the sir-just-answer-the-question dept.
Recently, Florida-based telemarketing firm Epixtar is frequently accused of cramming an extra $30 onto phone charges of small businesses, yet has proof of legality by recording their calls. Until they laid off some people, one of whom has blown the whistle. The companies' cramming tactics become "legal" by altering those taped recordings to include a quick statement about the $30 charge. MSNBC has the article, including a short audio clip of a sample call.
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Telemarketer Blows Whistle on Tape-Altering Scam

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  • by paranoid.android (71379) on Monday April 28, 2003 @12:51AM (#5822731)
    Until they laid some people

    Well, I guess they really screwed their employees over, too.
    • by Workpad z50 User (204152) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:06AM (#5822796) Homepage
      They screw the public and lay their employees. Sounds like one Fucked Company [fuckedcompany]
    • After being laid they couldn't wait to start blowing "whistles".

      The telemarketing biz doesn't sound so bad after all.
    • by conner_bw (120497) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:17AM (#5822845) Homepage Journal
      Until they laid some people

      Hey timothy! It's 12:49 AM. Do you know where your porn in another browser window innuendos are?

      Seriously though, if you are at work on monday morning, do you really click through to a link about employees getting laid and "blowing the whitsle" *wink* wink*.
    • I'm sure they also had them against the wall, on the photocopier. Well that what I saw in the office christmas party photos last year :P

      Sex - The basis of all humour

      rus
    • by gl4ss (559668)
      well, that's whats really 'nice' about telemarketing companies. they work so on the edge of profitability anyways that anything goes, the typical employees being elderly or naive young people who have failed to get a different job, and are promised 'make big $$$'. while in reality they end up getting below minimum wage(in theory they could be making nice $$$, but thats just theory).

      really, of if i had to choose between telemarketing and mcdonalds crap job, big macs here i come(that way i at least get the
  • They WHA?! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Your_Mom (94238) <slashdot&innismir,net> on Monday April 28, 2003 @12:51AM (#5822732) Homepage
    ...Until they laid some people...

    Damn, say what you want about telemarketers, but I think I want to work for this company.
    The whistleblower obviously was a person that was not laid.
  • How exactly does a business of any kind "lay" you? I've heard of getting screwed...but never getting laid.
  • Morality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dogbox (657658) on Monday April 28, 2003 @12:56AM (#5822751)
    What happened to people reporting this sort of stuff before they had a grudge against the company? Why do only former employees report this sort of thing?
    • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jason1729 (561790) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:01AM (#5822769)
      As long as the employees were getting a big enough piece of the pie, they kept quiet. They should be charged with aiding in the crime.

      Jason
      ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
    • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:05AM (#5822795) Homepage Journal
      Because once you air this sort of thing, it sort of kills your career.

      It's often better to voice your concerns internally, and work to improve the system from within.

      I find it very moral to give a company a chance to improve itself. (How long a chance? About as long as it takes for the would-be-whistleblower to find a better job.)
      • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tedDancin (579948) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:19AM (#5823039)
        It's often better to voice your concerns internally, and work to improve the system from within.

        It makes you wonder what the laid-off employees (especially the whistle-blower) did to try and restore morality internally before going to MSNBC. Would you complain to management if you knew they would never/weren't intereseted in resolving the issue? Or would you just take the final paycheck and go tell the world?

        The media is a powerful tool for an employee with little or no power inside their company.
      • Well, in this case, the only way for the company to "improve" is to be out of business. Their entire business is based on scam, so I doubt it can be made ethical with the company still making money.
      • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ian Bicking (980) <ianb&colorstudy,com> on Monday April 28, 2003 @03:42AM (#5823200) Homepage
        No, that's wrong. What this company was doing was illegal and fraudulent. Companies like this cannot be reformed, you can't improve a system where people knowingly and willingly commit fraud. Hell, you can't believe them when they say they've improved, maybe they've just realized they have to hide their actions from you too.

        Not to mention that in a case like this people have been wronged by the company, and deserve redress, which will never occur due to internal reform.

        Maybe if you believe the company is doing things that are unethical but legal, then you can try to reform from within. But when it's illegal (or deeply unethical) you have a moral duty to blow the whistle, even if it's going to suck for you. You aren't allowed to put ethics aside because they aren't convenient.

        • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by echucker (570962) on Monday April 28, 2003 @06:33AM (#5823529) Homepage
          But when it's illegal (or deeply unethical) you have a moral duty to blow the whistle, even if it's going to suck for you. You aren't allowed to put ethics aside because they aren't convenient.

          Personally, I think that's easier said than done in today's economy. I think a lot more people may find feeding one's family and paying the bills a little more important.
      • Re:Morality? (Score:3, Insightful)

        Because once you air this sort of thing, it sort of kills your career.


        It's often better to voice your concerns internally, and work to improve the system from within.

        . . .

        Jesus of Nazareth did not die so we could enjoy eggs and chocolate bunnies!


        Jesus of Nazareth did not voice his concerns internally and work to improve the system from within. True change requires true sacrifice, which few are willing to make.
    • Reality (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kris_J (10111) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:17AM (#5822850) Journal
      If you're working at one of these places you're doing it for the money, not for a warm feeling. Morality is a luxury many people can not afford.
      • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday April 28, 2003 @03:56AM (#5823242) Homepage
        EXACTLY. Having been forced into telemarketing for a short period of time myself (due to financial reasons) I can attest that very few people that are able to continue telemarketing work full time have no souls. I didn't last 40 hours, and the only reason I lasted that long was because i had my fiancee providing emotional support, and I couldn't afford to quit.

        In my mind, telemarketing is about as self-damaging as prostitution. I'd probably put it up there on the moral scale, too. Its time we see religoius groups going into telemarketing offices and trying to save their souls.

        Actually, I think that a prostiute is lest morally detestable than a telemarketer - at least prostitutes can feasably enjoy their job, and it pays better.
        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday April 28, 2003 @11:02AM (#5824802) Homepage Journal
          Actually, I think that a prostiute is lest morally detestable than a telemarketer - at least prostitutes can feasably enjoy their job, and it pays better.

          Uh, your post made little sense in general (I hope English is not your first language) but this last sentence really takes the proverbial cake. The fact that you enjoy your job and get paid well does not make you moral. A CEO of an overly large software and operating systems company utilizing unfair marketing practices to crush hopes and dreams, and a contract killer could both have those things in common.

          The moral defense of prostitution is that it is a victimless crime, which makes you wonder why it is a crime at all. As George Carlin says, "Selling is legal; fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal?" As far as I can tell, it is religious in nature, based on the prohibition of extramarital sex. Sex, even for money, is still a fairly beautiful and awe-inspiring thing. People not getting laid is probably a significant cause of misbehavior in this world, and so I favor anything outside of rape or coercion that lets more people have it.

      • Re:Reality (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sould (301844)

        Morality is a luxury many people can not afford.

        Fortunately, anonymity is a luxury everyone can afford.

        There's no reason that the media couldn't have been tipped off earlier with an email from disgruntled_employees@hotmail.com.

        Don't use morality as an exuse for their timidity.

    • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rodgerd (402) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:21AM (#5822861) Homepage
      People don't do telemarketing jobs because they have in-demand skills and a big pile-o-cash to fall back on if they get laid off and can't find another job once word gets out they rat on the boss.

      It may be the right thing to do, but being in the right doesn't keep you off the streets, unfortunately.
    • Re:Morality? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:25AM (#5822878) Journal
      People who work for telemarketers are often fairly hard up for work as it is. If they do something to rock the boat before they've secured employment elsewhere, they can find themselves without any job at all. It's not easy to make waves when whether or not you're going to be able to pay rent next month depends on keeping your mouth shut.
    • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RWarrior(fobw) (448405) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:33AM (#5822904)
      > Why do only former employees report this sort of
      > thing?

      I worked at a newspaper [fwst.com] once. In my state, it is legal to carry a concealed firearm if you are licensed to do so. An employer or business may prohibit even licenced holders from carrying their weapons on the premises, and this newspaper does.

      My supervisor didn't have such a license, because she found it too restrictive to bother with, in part because she couldn't take her weapon into bars. Instead, she worked a couple of nights a month as a volunteer patrol officer and was certified and licensed as a peace officer in Texas (having had a previous career as a full-time police officer). As a peace officer, she could carry her weapon anywhere, anytime she wanted to. That included bars, restaurants, and her place of regular employment, despite the no-guns policy.

      The employer's representative had a meeting with her and they let her know in no uncertain terms that, under the law, while they couldn't prevent her from bringing her weapon to work, there were lots of reasons to fire people.

      As a consequence, she left her weapon in the car when she came to work.

      People who work for telemarketers typically aren't well paid, aren't in it because they love it, and do have families to support and bills that way outstrip their meager incomes, especially in bust economies where unemployment is rising.

      It is illegal to fire people for whistle-blowing under state and federal whistle-blowing statues. A person so terminated can recover in a number of ways. Regrettably, most people aren't aware of their rights and even if they are aware of them, do not know how or do not have the money to invoke and protect them.

      Besides, there are lots of reasons to fire people.

      • Sure, but do you want to work at a company where you've blown the whistle? Management can make life very miserable for you. They can't fire you, but they can re-assign you to scrub toilets with a toothbrush.

        Jason
        ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
        • Re:Morality? (Score:4, Informative)

          by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:59AM (#5822974) Journal
          Actually, if they do that, it's even better for you. It gives you proof of "constructive dismissal". It would be better if they found some reason that they could substantiate and you couldn't disprove, and fire you for that.
          • If you're a whistleblower, they have a reason not to trust you. If you tell their secrets to the government, maybe you'll tell them to the competition for money. Since they can't trust you and can't fire you, they have to shift you to something where you don't have access to their secrets...like scrubbing toilets.

            It's like the ADA, they can't fire you, but if you can't do the job, they can find something else for you.

            Jason
            ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
            • Re:Morality? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by mark-t (151149)
              As I said though, sudden demotion of duties or wages constitutes as substantiated evidence of "constructive dismissal", which is where the employer makes the work environment so unsuitable to the employee that he or she feels forced to quit. Where I live, a former employee suing for constructive dismissal is entitled to (in addition to legal fees) one year's worth of wages from his former employer, which is supposed to supply living expenses during which the person can search for another job.
      • Re:Morality? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Henry V .009 (518000) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:00AM (#5822977) Journal
        As a consequence, she left her weapon in the car when she came to work.

        Yeah, that makes your company a lot safer. Instead of having the gun in the hands of a female -- trained at its use, at that -- it's out in the parking lot. The first person to break into that car and find it will present a million (actually far more) times the threat that woman did. And the gun won't be there -- again, in the hands of a woman trained in its use -- in case it is ever needed.

        I don't know how you feel about the whole situation -- you probably aren't responsible for the decision -- but I think it stinks.
        • This isn't about the company being unfair to her. Its about the possibility of a lawsuit in case she goes crazy and shoots people.

          If the company knew that she had a gun and did nothing before she shot people then the company is liable!

          I think this is bs but lawyers make a living doing scummy shit as this.

          I would of fired her too. I would have to protect my shareholders and my other employees if a lawsuit took away profits. Also its illegal in most if not all states to bring a weapon to work unless its th
          • Re:Morality? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by enkidu (13673)
            If she were to go crazy, would it matter if the company wanted her to leave her gun in her car? Does the sign "No robbing of the bank allowed" deter any bank robbers? Perhaps you think that you should simply fire all employees who have access to a gun? Heck, you knew that they were a potential danger to the company. Where does liability begin?

            Also its illegal in most if not all states to bring a weapon to work unless its the military or a police department.

            Uhmmm, not in most states, and especially n

        • Its not the companies fault if her gun gets stolen from her car. If she's so obsessed with her handgun that she can't leave the house without it, she needs to go back to a career where carrying a sidearm is a requirement.

          Hell, maybe she wears the gun around the house, too. Just in case, you know...

        • Yeah, that makes your company a lot safer. Instead of having the gun in the hands of a female -- trained at its use, at that -- it's out in the parking lot.

          Yes, I'm sure everyone here (that drives regularly) would feel MUCH safer with women, not-only being behind the wheel of a car, but being heavily armed to boot... ;-)
        • Re:Morality? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by HaggiZ (68526)
          You dang americans with your pro-gun propoganda.

          The employers primary concern would be their employees. If she is so well trained in its use you would expect her to know better than to leave it in a relatively unsafe car.
      • Re:Morality? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:22AM (#5823044) Journal
        " It is illegal to fire people for whistle-blowing under state and federal whistle-blowing statues. A person so terminated can recover in a number of ways. Regrettably, most people aren't aware of their rights and even if they are aware of them, do not know how or do not have the money to invoke and protect them.

        Besides, there are lots of reasons to fire people."


        Problem 1 is that it costs money for justice or to prove your innocense in America. Since your fired you no longer have income to pay the legal fee's.

        Problem 2 is you have to prove why you were terminated. The burden of proof is usually on the guy who has the least resources. A corporation can make shit up or can find a reason to can you.

        I heard stories from other slashdotters of getting fired for leaving the lights on after work, coming in 5 minutes late, spending more then 30 minutes for lunch, being assigned something impossible to finish on purpose so you look bad during a performance review, etc. All of these cases had to do with things like threatening to join unions, complain about there bosses to hr, to threatening to quit, to just about anything.

        After all this shit HR will force you to sign a self incriminating document as part of your pink slip to receive severance pay. If you refuse they will then terminate you for sub-ordination and disciplinary issues.

        Either way in court they have documents to prove that your performance was the reason you were let go.

        Last lets say by a miracle you won and your employer was forced to rehire you. Would you really want to continue to work there? Don't you think they will make you quit one way or another? Kind of like the weird guy in the movie office space. (they cut off his paychecks and moved him into the basement, and forced him to setup bug traps)

        I was a merchandiser once and this lady came in late 3 out of 5 days a week and always complained. She filed a sexual harrasment complaint when my boss made her sign a document stating that she was about to be canned and she had 60 days to straighten her act or else. He fired her after she refused to sign it and cursed him off. HR forced him to rehire her after the complaint was filed. Anyway he gave her 3 times as much work to do as anyone else until she quit. Same is true here.

      • Why does everything in America come down to guns? This is a serious question. No one ever talks about guns over here, no one carries them, few people get shot by them, everyones happy (well maybe not quite). In the US, someone exposes a telemarketing scam and suddenly we've got people going on about their right to walk into an office carrying a gun.

        You people are fsking obsessed - get therapy.
    • Re:Morality? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:00AM (#5822975) Journal
      If you had bills to pay and a wife and a kid to support, what kind of morality would it be to scew them and yourself?

      Unfortunatly we live under capitalism and we need to bendover when necessary to support ourselves and our families. If you are already canned then why not. But it will kill your career if you can not get a reference from a former employer if you do it while on the job.

      I had a friend who was pissed off at a verbally abusive boss and he almost quit. His wife threatened to divorce him if he left and forced him to bend over. He eventually found another job and then quit to satisfy his wife and daughter. They recently just bought a house and had trouble selling the old one and they both had college loans to pay off. This was why his wife was frantic.

      Its not fair and I believe it sucks but this is the way the system works. If I had kids they would be more important to me then a few pissed off people at my employer.

      Also you need a good credit report for further employment and a future house or college loan. Even if your single and have no family. Which was the case with my friend since he was close to the edge. Otherwise his wife would of been more lenient.

      Infact I was turned down from a job about a month ago because I forgot to mail a check to Linuxmagazine back in 1999 after subscribing. It came 2 months late. With a poor economy, HR can do whatever it is they want to filter you out. It sucks but if you have no job you still need to pay the bills or yourself and others in your family will be screwed.

      • Re:Morality? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jimhill (7277) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:10AM (#5823009) Homepage
        Stealing from people is never right. Doing it over the phone with credit card information doesn't make it right. Doing it because you have no useful skills in a down economy doesn't make it right. Doing it because your kid needs fed doesn't make it right.

        This is not "vinyl siding salesmen piss me off." This is a company employing fast-talkers to act like phone company fact-checkers to rip businesses off. If you are willing to work for them, You Are A Thief. It really is that simple, folks. No amount of off-the-job fast-talking will change that.
        • Re:Morality? (Score:3, Insightful)

          Stealing from people is never right. [...] Doing it because your kid needs fed doesn't make it right.

          I am not commenting on this particular case, but I can't agree with the above. It is only true if rights to property are more sacrosanct than human life.

          In most civlised countries, people consider life more important, and would not convict for theft someone who had no other reasonable choice to feed themselves.

    • What happened to people reporting this sort of stuff before they had a grudge against the company?


      I have a better solution. You keep me on the payroll as an outside consultant. And in exchange for my salary, my job will be never to tell people these things that I know. I don't even have to come into the office. I can do this job from home. --Fight Club
    • Re:Morality? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sco08y (615665)
      This wasn't just any former employee.

      This was the guy who handled refunds. Everyone knows how much shit telemarketers get and how high the turnover rate is for them... imagine being the person who has to stall people who have figured out they got scammed. Then imagine when it dawns on you that they're not just idiots who don't pay attention, but that your company really *did* scam them.

      Is it really possible he could be in this position *without* holding a grudge?

      And I don't think you can assume mixed mot
  • Telemarketing in general pisses me off; but this kind of unethical crap is the worst.

    Telemarketing should be against the law as an invasion of privacy, or at the very least, a public annoyance. With fair penalties of course. Nothing insane; although sometimes I think death would be appropriate, such as at 6pm when I'm eating dinner and they bother me to try and sell me some new windows..
    • by Rai (524476) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:17AM (#5822847) Homepage
      I want one of two things: Either the company responsible for telemarketing fraud is fined the entire dollar amount of all assets plus 50% and all employees directly involved in the particular incident receive no less that 10 years in prison and a fine of no less than $25,000 per instance with all fines being equally disputed among those victims of this company's fraudulant operations.

      Or I want button installed on my phone that will kill whoever is on the other line.
      • Or I want button installed on my phone that will kill whoever is on the other line.

        Hopefully this button isn't close to the call waiting button. Take the following scenario:

        "Mom? I'm getting a call on the other line, can you hold a sec?"

        BZZZZZZT

        "Er, Mom, you still there? Mom?"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Lends a different connotation to "blowing the whistle," doesn't it?
  • by Michael's a Jerk! (668185) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:02AM (#5822773) Homepage Journal
    Here [totse.com] Enjoy.
  • by Bruha (412869) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:03AM (#5822780) Homepage Journal
    These tactics have been around in the industry for way too long. I had a roomate that used to make money off these cramming punks by telling them he had a better deal from X company and they'd give him 100 dollars to switch plus pay the switching fees and such. And he'd play all sides.

    Man let me tell you his beer fund was funded :)
  • by WegianWarrior (649800) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:04AM (#5822787) Journal

    "The company feels it operates ethically and has not done anything wrong," Nasca said.

    If you're getting anrgy phonecalls from the people who are giving you money (more or less by voluntarely), you're probaly doing something wrong and / or unethically. Wether you give a damn is another matter entirely... many a sucxessfull business (spammers etc) depends on pissing people off.

  • by phantomlord (38815) <slashdot@krwtec h . c om> on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:04AM (#5822790) Journal
    This week, I received a solicitation which was deceptively in the form of a bill from Internet Corporation Listing Service (ICLS). For $37.50, they offered to list my domain in a whopping 14 search engines.

    The solicitation most definitely looked like a bill (front page [krwtech.com] and back page [krwtech.com]). The bottom half of the page is a tear away bill stub and the solicitation notice on the top right hand corner is in a lighter font than the rest of the text (though it's harder to notice on the scan).

    Fortunately, I'm in the habit of reading all of my bills when they come in, but some people aren't. They obviously got the information from the internet WHOIS database even though that database is explicitly protected by a clause saying you can't datamine from it.

    The next morning, I filed a complaint with the United States Postal Inspectors because of the deceptiveness and the likelihood that others will be fooled by it. Here is the complaint I sent:

    I received a solicitation from ICLS which deceptively looks like a bill. Located on it, is a tear-away payment stub with a customer number, due date and amount with no reference to the fact that it's actually a solicitation on the stub. On the upper right hand corner, it does state "THIS NOTICE IS A SOLICITATION AND RECEIPT OF PAYMENT WILL CONFIRM YOUR ANNUAL LISTING", however, it is a lighter font than the rest of the solicitation.

    While I, fortunately, did not fall for the solicitation, I'm concerned that other people whom aren't as careful could easily be deceived as without close examination, it will appear as a bill.

    I'm still waiting to hear back from the postal inspectors to see what they have to say.

    • I work for a web hosting company and it amazes me the number of people who get "bills" like this in the mail and by fax for renewing their domains. There's one that many get and fall for because the company name sounds professional (Worldwide Internet Registry or something like that). They end up paying for 5-10 years of renewal at very inflated prices. Oh well.. Buyer beware.
    • I switched from NSI to a different registrar sometime ago for obvious reasons. NSI, of course, tried to stop that from happening but I'd done my homework and everything went smoothly since everything was in order. Several months later I recieve a bill from NSI. I am prepared to get all angry when I notice it's NOT actually a bill, it just looks like bill. It's really a form to transfer my domain back and charge me for it.

      I told the FTC about it and they told me that I was not the only one to complain and t
  • by Jin Wicked (317953) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:08AM (#5822809) Homepage Journal
    And I've got a telephone, but I've not heard anything about this laying, blowing or cramming until now. Evidently I am in the wrong field.

    All I ever get are wrong numbers.
  • by grungebox (578982) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:10AM (#5822820) Homepage
    So, I know Epixtar added their "lightning-quick" phone-bill-altering deal to the tapes after the fact. However, what I want to know is: Is there some sort of legal requirement for how slow/quickly such statements have to be said? I mean, car commercials/ads routinely have quickly-spoken disclaimers at the end of ads and such. If Epixtar had merely tacked on the "we can alter your bill" or whatever phrase, only spoken at a Micro Machines guy speed so it seemed like crackly phone noise, would that be legal?
    • Is there some sort of legal requirement for how slow/quickly such statements have to be said?

      Yep, saying it extremely quickly is still a deceptive business practice, and thus a dispute would be covered by normal legal methods. Still a hassle, as the telcos have rather stupidly decided that you can't set it up so you have to have written authorization before people can add items to your bill; though it's fraudulent to tack things onto your phone bill, might as well make it difficult to do so.

  • by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:24AM (#5822867)
    First they try to twist your responses to indicate an affirmative response for a sale, now this. This is the kind of crap that made me stop talking to telemarketers altogether. Don't waste your precious time with these deceivers, people. Don't even pick up the phone. Get caller ID and ignore incoming calls with no caller ID.

    Check out this answering machine for your PC [voicecallcentral.com] that deals with telemarketers who withhold their caller ID. The software can be configured to hang up on these cases and you will never hear the phone ring. It also implements white lists and black lists. Usual disclaimer applies.

    Yes there is a risk of IDing legitimate calls as false positives. However, I've been monitoring my caller ID for over two years and can confirm that this is becoming less of a problem as more bell systems make their caller ID protocols compatible. So the risk is diminishing with time.

    Yes this is a drastic move but until the law catches up this is how you have to deal with aggressive deceptive practices.

    Caller ID is a godsend people - use it. Yes the telcos should be hung by their balls for extorting extra services out of the customers by selling personal information to scum telemarketers. In my next residence I will register my phone under an alias. If anyone calls asking for the alias, then they are immediately identified as a telemarketer and I will tell them there is no one here by that name. This crap has gone far enough.

    • Give your phone company a call and ask them to turn "Anonymous Call Blocking" on. It should be free. Then anyone blocking their caller ID will get a message like "This phone number does not accept anonymous calls. Thank you."

      This will eliminate a small number of telemarketers - the rest will get through because they're calling from overseas and would have simply shown up as "out of area" or blank on your caller ID unit.

      • by maxpublic (450413) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:36AM (#5823079) Homepage
        Forget call blocking and caller i.d. Do what I did: disconnect your phone and go with a cell service.

        Turns out that with all the long-distance calling I do the cell was actually cheaper than the regular phone line. Furthermore, it's illegal to make an unsolicited sales call to a cell - because the cell owner has to pay if *you* call.

        Ever since I disconnected my land line and went to a cell (more than two years now) I've been completely telemarketer free. Not one bloody sales call, not even from those hell-fiends at AT&T.

        You can't imagine just how much nicer life is when you know that *every* call you get is from someone you want to hear from, or at least need to hear from.

        Max
      • Yea right, last time I checked my phone company (Sprint) is charging for anon call blocking. So while they (arguably are required to) hook up telemarketers with lots of lines and make money that way, and then turn around and sell you services to avoid them.
    • In my next residence I will register my phone under an alias. If anyone calls asking for the alias, then they are immediately identified as a telemarketer and I will tell them there is no one here by that name. This crap has gone far enough.

      Hey, that's an awesome idea! Register yourself under the name Mr. Mudder Fokker, so that they avoid calling you in fear of getting in trouble for obscene phone calls :)
    • Yes there is a risk of IDing legitimate calls as false positives.

      Get an answering machine. If it's someone you care about, let them know to leave a message, and you'll pick up if you're there. This cuts the false positives nearly out, and if it's someone who doesn't know you well enough to know you are screening calls that way, and if it's at all important, they'll leave a message.
    • The one that made me stop was the guy who claimed to be representing the fraternal order of the police. Hell, there were scams happening *on* 9/11!

      In my next residence I will register my phone under an alias.

      Get an unlisted number. Get checks that do not have your address and phone # on them. Get a free voicemail account to fill out on forms.
    • What I do with telemarketers:

      as soon as you realize that someone is trying to sell you something:

      State loudly and clearly "I am not interested"

      Put the phone down (don't hang up)

      see how much longer they stay on the line.

      Sometimes for a bit of variety, I put the phone next to the TV.

  • Shame (Score:3, Funny)

    by prostoalex (308614) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:27AM (#5822888) Homepage Journal
    I am only afraid that an event like this would give telemarketing industry a negative image.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:38AM (#5822914)
    Hold on. Slashdot has so many people experiences in social engineering. Why not give Epixtar a call and sell them some choice beachfront property in Arizona? Then if they don't pay, present them with a recorded conversation. After defending their strategy in court they wouldn't be able to just back out of it.

    Better yet, try it on the next telemarketer that calls you. Should be fun and legal, since they called your "business" to "inquire about your services" themselves.
  • Is this epixtar the one that has a url of http://www.epixtar.com/ [epixtar.com]? I see that this epixtar is indeed located in Florida, as their name, address, and phone number are on nearly every page of their site, but I'm not sure if it's the same Epixtar.

    Can anybody verify if these companies are one and the same?

  • Another low trick (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bgeiger (42769) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:49AM (#5822938) Homepage Journal
    This actually happened to my dad. Keep in mind my dad works nights, and typically sleeps all day.

    Telemarketer: "Hi, my name is [somebody] and... excuse me, can you hear me?"
    My dad (still groggy): "Yes."
    Telemarketer: "I'm calling to offer you suchandsuch a service... [blah blah blah garbage]"
    Dad: "I'm not interested. Goodbye. *click*"

    Next month, he notices his long distance service has been changed to (I think) AT&T.

    They used his "Yes" answer to an irrelevant question, and turned it into a "sale".

    People like that should be thrown in jail.
    • Re:Another low trick (Score:4, Informative)

      by Catiline (186878) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Monday April 28, 2003 @07:07AM (#5823607) Homepage Journal
      That's why whenever I speak with telemarketers, I do two things:
      1. Make them give their pitch as soon as possible.
      2. Always give a specific answer to a question: "I can hear you", "That information is correct", etc. avoiding general words of assent.
      I knew the scummy ones would edit tapes, and mentally prepared myself ahead of time. If you find it's too much work to do this, you have two options: record the call yourself as well (less work but still work), or take another posters' suggestion and go all cellular. (Number portability-- which I assume will be compatible with land line number portability-- begins before the end of this year.)
  • laid? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by InsaneCreator (209742)
    Until they laid some people

    This reminds me of a joke:
    Jack & Mary's boss had to lay one of them off.
    So he walks up to Mary and tells her: It's like this - I have to lay you or Jack off.
    She replies: I'm affraid you'll have to jack off, because I'm late for my bus...
  • Man... (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by SnakeEyes (123104)
    Man, I *hate* it when the people I lay, blow the whistle on me. :)

  • What ever happened to opting in for things like spam, services, etc. A few weeks ago, I saw an ad in the paper listing government jobs. I called the number, and it was just a company with a catalog of 'potential future' government jobs for an 'easy' payment of $59.99. Naturally, I wasn't interested. The guy on the other end assumed I would be paying for it, and skipped 'selling' it to me. Instead, he immediately started asking for my credit card, info, etc. Since I had already given him my name and ad
  • o wait, yup, sure enough first 5 posts or so pointed out the um......"typographical errors". I can just imagine how the whole Clinton/Lewinski thing might have started.

    What he meant

    "If you blow the whistle you'll be laid off"

    What he actually typed

    "If you blow my whistle you'll be laid."

    eh, easy mistake, anybody could have made it.

  • When you sign a contract with someone, both parties keep a copy of the contract. How is it valid to have only one party to a contract keep a copy of it? The customer should also have a copy of the recording.

    If the recordings of phone conversations were stored as mp3 files, the customers could sign their conversations with their private crypto keys, validating the recording as authentic. I know some call centers record calls digitally. It shoudn't be too hard to send me an email with the file so i can gener
  • by Winterblink (575267) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:03AM (#5822989) Homepage
    The best thing to do is to say nothing except that you're not interested, and hang up. Add some expletives for effect if you desire. I've had to deal with some real pushy ones too, and it's amazing how hard they'll try to keep you from hanging up until you say yes to whatever crap they're selling.

    The worst was a local newspaper calling around for new subscriptions. He starts out saying what paper he's calling about and asks whether I receive their paper. I say no. Then he starts off on a sales pitch, which I interrupt to say that the reason I don't receive the paper already is that I don't WANT it, since I get my news from the net. The guy actually tries to continue on reading the script or whatever he's got in front of him... took a couple tries to be polite about not wanting what he's selling before I just flat out said "Listen to the words coming out of my mouth. Not interested." and hung up on the guy. In retrospect that should have been my first response.

    I'm amazed people still sit on the phone with these bottom-feeders and answer their questions, unwillingly signing themselves up for a ton of crap. It's not hard to tell them to piss off instead of falling for their tactics.

    • No the best thing to do is to exercise your rights. Saying you are not interested and hanging up does nothing. They can continue to call after that. You need to SPECIFICALLY demand that your name be placed ON their Do Not Call list (i.e. not removed from some other generic list...this is important). Then demand a copy of their written policy regarding the maintenance of their Do Not Call list. They are required to send this do you as a matter of federal law (47 USC 227 - Telephone Consumer protection Act of
  • I'm just waiting for a cramming call... I'm all prepared now:

    Telemarketer: "At this time we will begin your no obligation 30-day free trial. Should you decide to continue after 30 days your company's Web and Internet service is only $29.95 monthly and will be included in your local phone bill appearing under the heading online services ..."

    Me: "No means yes and yes means no, does your company personally wish to pay for my entire phone bill, including the $30 a month charges, and additionally all long dist
  • by 0x20 (546659) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:28AM (#5823056) Homepage
    The companies' cramming tactics become "legal" by altering those taped recordings to include a quick statement about the $30 charge.

    That's not what the article says. It hints that the tape was cut off immediately after the person responded "Yes" to a group of questions asked quickly all at once, removing the rest of their response. Which is still bad but not nearly as bad as inserting bits into the conversation that never took place. I'm sure that's not far off, if it's not already happening in some cases, but it didn't happen here according to the MSNBC article.
  • by joejoejoejoe (231600) on Monday April 28, 2003 @03:06AM (#5823133) Homepage Journal
    NEVER BUY ANYTHING.

    Never confirm more than your name, and ask for theirs first.

    A person/company calling you has you at a great advantage. It could be an inmate of a prison just trying to get your credit card, and all he/she started with was probably a phone book or Internet connection... I mean come on, they almost always BLOCK their source phone number. How can you even remotely trust someone who is hiding behind an unidentified phone number, wanting to sell you something???

    It is like social engineering, surely we here on /. are all aware of how that works. (Free Kevin, oh wait, nevermind) But these guys are just plain arrogant about it. Did you hear the womans voice when she was asked to repeat something? She got a real nasty tone. The social response to that is to not ask for anything to be repeated. And voila, he gets nailed with some services and charges he never really even heard, or realized he was buying.

    Now what I have always wanted to do, but never have, is when the call starts and they say it may be recorded, I would say "Good, for my records and quality assurances I AM RECORDING THE CALL TOO." How do you think the would respond to that? most likely "Click."
  • by michaelhood (667393) on Monday April 28, 2003 @03:24AM (#5823168)
    JERRY: Uh, sorry, Excuse me one second. Hello.

    TEL: Hi, would you be interested in switching over to TMI long distance service.

    JERRY: Oh, gee, I can't talk right now. Why don't you give me your home number and I'll call you later.

    TEL: Uh, I'm sorry we're not allowed to do that.

    JERRY: Oh, I guess you don't want people calling you at home.

    TEL: No.

    JERRY: Well now you know how I feel. [Hangs up]

    Seinfeld Episode Transcript [prohosting.com]
  • The overall situation is worse than the article leads you to believe. This is something that I wouldn't expect to see fully explained on any major news site like MSNBC. The situation is thus: You don't need any proof -- or real proof -- in order to steal money from people via their phone bills.

    Back in the 1990s I began to realize that a phone bill became viewed as a charge account that organized crime could tack charges onto. This accusation includes organizations like AOL. Charges for goods and services
  • How can someone phoning *you* put a charge on your phone bill?
  • Scary Paradigm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anubi (640541) on Monday April 28, 2003 @05:30AM (#5823418) Journal
    I find it scary when one incurs charges by just a quickie phone call. They have their script all rehearsed and phrased where they can blurt out so called binding agreements, and we are "socially expected" to be polite and give a "timely" response, like on the order of seconds.

    What scares me is businesses are arranging with banks on direct account withdrawals, and checking account numbers are pretty easy to come by. I mean, if you have ever paid something by check, they have it. And now, they do not even need a signed check to get withdrawal. So you could see charges showing up on your checking account that you have no idea what is.

    And dealing with a business is kinda scary, because they have links to Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. They can mess up your credit and then you have to straighten that out too. You might as well pay them their money just not to have to argue about it. I mean, like me - if I get my credit all screwed up over some business that slipped a charge on me for some "professional services listing" and I refused to pay, I might be denied a job because of that stain. And they know this.

    So, I try to keep any monthly billing I have to as few of entities as possible. Once a company has legitimate billing access, they have a foot in the door that a telemarketer can use to fool me into thinking I am doing business with somebody I am already doing business with... like the way they bamboozled the guy with the trick 4-in-one question that if he said "yes" ( which was the obvious answer to three of the questions - if the name, address, and number was correct ), he implies acceptance of the quickly stated fourth question - that he is authorized to modify his billing.

    With a business model out now that depends on signing up monthly billing, I see the opportunity for scamming artists soaring, as the number of open accounts, ripe for modification, soars.

    I continue all attempts to make purchases on a per-instance basis, meaning I pay full price for the product and close the sale, leaving no loose ends. None of this "support", "warranty", "revolving charge account", etc. I walk out the door with the product, and the vendor has been paid in full. That way things don't change after the agreement has been made.

    I have done way too much business already with businesses ( especially insurance companies, and any company having anything to do with investments ) that love to send me tons of paper describing changes after I have agreed to something.

    Damm, I just don't have time to read it all. I really *hate* to do business under that business model.

    This is the thing that had me so worked up over the Lexmark Printer thing ( where Static Control Concepts tried to make an aftermarket replacement toner cartridge but ran afoul of DMCA because Lexmark put a chip in the toner cartridge, and SCC could not legally duplicate the chip. ). Once this paradigm catches on in the business community, I fear we will see the end of going to WalMart to get replacement aftermarket goods for our day-to-day expendables. Companies could demand and get agreements for monthly billings, and once that's in place, the door is wide open for rampant trickery to modify those agreements.

  • Searched for the number on that taped conversation on google and found out that this is the shitty online directory [onlineyp.net] that they purportedly add you to.
    Now liberty online - that must be another name these guys do business under

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