I’m willing to even give them some slack, like maybe 1945.

It’s not just Verizon, but that is who I pay every month for operating a network that allows computers to generate phone calls to me from numbers that do not exist.

I plan to write Verizon often in this post, just in case they are monitoring.

These have been coming to my Verizon phone number well before 2012 when I started tracking them– at the time it was a recorded message from “Rachel with Cardholder Services”, later it was Tiffany, Anne, Kelly, Heather, even Scott. More recent iterations are from outfits trying to represent Medical Insurance and Life Alert.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

All of my efforts to deal with this have failed:

  • Pressing the phone option to talk me off their list. Yeah, PT Barnum rules.
  • Pressing the phone option to speak to an operator and asking them to not call me back. They hung up. At least 5 times.
  • Pressing the phone option to speak to an operator, and screaming obscenities or playing loud sounds or just leaving the phone off the hook. No results.
  • Pressing the phone option to speak to an operator, keeping them on the line, pretending I really wanted to give them a credit card number. This ended with the person on the other end cussing me out and hanging up on me.
  • Reporting to Do Not Call (reported at least 40 numbers)
  • Keeping a log in Google docs. Not worth the time
  • Filed complaints to FTV and FCC (zero)
  • Letter to my congressional representative Paul Gosar. The person who did followup suggested DoNotCall (see step 1), and later said there was nothing they could do.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

In November 2012 The Christian Science Monitor reported that the FTC “took down” five of the companies behind the Rachel calls.

Apparently there were more, because it continued.

Who is Rachel?

The frequency of these has increased in the last few months, I get sometimes two or three a day, and average maybe 8 a week. Since I have been in Canada since October, and just answering the phone to hang up would cost me $0.89 (paid to Verizon), I just ignore them.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

Instead, when I get a call from an unidentified number, and from a town where I know nobody, I do not answer. It’s pretty easy to google the numbers, and you find there are consumer complaint web sites several pages deep full of complaints. I’ve take lately to tweeting these to Verizon, just today

Early on their support twitter account asked me what they could do. I told them to make it stop. Their offered solutions were:

  1. They told me I could for free block up to 5 numbers (and pay to block more). This is closing the barn door… they numbers are rarely repeated, and blocking thus does nothing.
  2. They told me I could change my phone number. Oh F**** Yes, this is a reasonable thing I want to do.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

Each one of these numbers I just logged in the last three days produce results with a very easily identifiable pattern.

spam logged

To repeat, Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

I do not know how phone networks work. Yes on the internet, people can spoof their IPS to obscure their origin (the business backbone of email and comment span) but users and providers and network managers have tools to block known malicious addresses. They create honeypots and build up organized collections of abusers.

You would think a megalopolis company like Verizon, and their other Brothers in Profit could easily harvest this trove of information on the phone report sites. A pool of bad phone numbers. If I can google it, they can do something more automated.

But they do not. I won’t even go into the fairly land of conspiracy theories and suggest that Verizon makes some buck on this. Maybe Rachel runs Verizon, or the other way around.

Actually the FTC did something that approaches a 21st century networked approach- they offered a $50,000 prize to combat robocalls. And apparently action is being taken (?).

The followup now identifies Rachel as the target! Zapping Rachel:

zapping-rachel-contest

On August 7-10, 2014, the FTC challenged the tech-savvy public to help us zap Rachel and her robocall buddies by creating the next-generation robocall honeypot at DEF CON 22. A robocall honeypot is an information system designed to attract robocallers and help investigators and academics understand and combat illegal calls. This was the FTC’s second robocall challenge, and our first DEF CON competition.

The contest consisted of three separate phases. Phase 1 (Creator) challenged participants to build a robocall honeypot. Phase 2 (Attacker) challenged participants to find honeypot vulnerabilities. Phase 3 (Detective) challenged participants to analyze honeypot data.

There are even t-shirts. How hip is our government.

rachel-shirt-preview

Still, almost every day, on my Verizon network phone, I get calls from numbers that do not exist.

And Verizon shrugs, collecting my monthly fees, and says, “huh? what problem?”

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.


Top / featured photo credit: “Telephone exchange Montreal QE3 33” by Various photographers for Cassell & Co. – The Queen’s Empire. Volume 3. Cassell & Co. London. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

UPDATE Feb 10, 2015
Just another day. Four unanswered calls from numbers, that when googled, all end up showing as being on web sites that report robo spam calls. After tweeting out the screen shot of the offending numbers, we enter the regular cycle of canned responses from Verizon support

And after letting them know how useless reporting to DonNotCall is (I’ve reported easily 100 numbers), we get the next level of predictable, unreasonable Verizon support responses

But then, out of the blue comes this

Now time to check out http://numbercop.com. The reviews on app store are mostly positive, a few detractors.

The post "Verizon’s Modern Telephone Network… if this was 1895" was originally emerged from the primordial ooze and first walked on land at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2015/02/if-this-was-1895/) on February 4, 2015.

5 Comments

  • Sandy Brown Jensen

    Keep barking, Dog! I have come to hate Verizon with a pure and sublime rage. I actually switched from an iPhone to a Nokia 1020 (ok ok it was because of the 41 megapixel camera), so now I can go see if I will hate AT &T as passionately; alas, I fear that my First Hate is the best and truest hate I will ever know.

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog cogdogblog.com

      Good luck. None of them are any better or more horrible than others. We tend to extrapolate our single experiences to a whole. My belief is, over some range of time, any internet, phone, airline provider will screw you over. Just a matter of time.

      But 41MP! Woah Neo! To bad they could not reach the magical 42

  • iamTalkyTina

    Well, that Rachel does not sound like a Friend. She sounds like a bother. Maybe it is time for Verizon to go to the Top of Stairs.

    For me, the one that is always calling me is “Amy from Westjet.” She keeps saying that I won a free cruise but I do not think that planes have cruises so I think it is a trick like that Rachel.

    They are a bother, for sure. But sometimes it is fun to just talk to the person (when they call on a landline) because maybe they just need a True Friend or it just wastes their time like you said.

  • Harriet

    I must be living right – I never get robo calls.

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