With technology, vigilante turns tables on robocallers
TAMPA (FOX 13) - Robocalls keep coming even when we're on the do-not-call list. That's because they're coming from scammers, not legitimate companies.
What if you could send them this message:
"In a world of people that scam innocent Americans out of hundreds or thousands of dollars each year, the tables have turned. You are now at the end of your scamming career. Your services will now be permanently suspended. Wake up, smell the coffee, go out and get a real job."
That's the message from a phone scam vigilante.
"I just call it 'getting even,'" said I.T. expert Hunter Giambra.
He's found a way to shut down scammers' phones by calling them back -- a lot.
"So in a minute, 1,560 phone calls go out to the same phone number, so if they're a hundred-man show, I'm overloading their network. If they're a one-man show, I'm totally overloading their network."
Most of us get the type of calls Giambra is fighting against. That frustration inspired him to design his rapid-fire calling software.
"I tried it out on myself after I got the software built out and after I called myself, probably after the first 45 seconds I pretty much fried my phone system," he recalled.
Now he's collecting numbers from the public on his website. If you report a number, he calls the number to make sure it's a scammer and not a real business or person. If it's a scammer, he adds it to his database. He has 100,000 numbers in his database and says he's fried more than 30,000.
But at the beginning of his mission, Giambra needed to know if what he was doing was legal.
"I actually got in touch with the FCC and there's a gray area for it. As long as I'm not doing it to businesses in the U.S. that are legit, there's really no law against it," he explained.
The FCC, meanwhile, is trying to keep up with the scammer and robocalling problem. It recently changed the rules so phone companies can block robocalls that appear fraudulent. It's still being debated whether we can be charged for that service.
We get robocalls even if we're on the do-not-call list because many of the callers aren't legit companies. They're scammers who buy our numbers on the internet.
"When you say 'hello' and you don't hear anything, that person makes note that it's a live phone number and builds a database and sells it for other calls," Giambra explained.
And we're more inclined to answer when the number looks familiar. The FCC is also working with the phone industry to authenticate caller ID to prevent this so-called spoofing.
Because it's so easy for scammers to keep changing numbers, Giambra has his work cut out for him.
"After I get that new number I'll add to the database and call them right back again. Our goal is to keep updating it and shut these businesses completely down. I'm not making any money off it but at least I'm helping other people," he said.
He is currently applying for grants to fund his mission. Until then he'll be collecting numbers on his website.
- Share a suspected phone number with Giambra
- Report a violator to the Federal Do-Not-Call list