The Tech Herald

AT&T sued after charging the FCC for Nigerian scam calls

by Steve Ragan - Mar 23 2012, 23:25

AT&T sued after charging the FCC for Nigerian scam calls.(IMG:J.Anderson)

On Thursday, the Department of Justice said that they have filed a lawsuit against AT&T for allowing their IP Relay service, which is aimed at helping the speech and hearing impaired, to become a haven for Nigerian scammers.

IP Relay, the DOJ explained in court documents, is a text-based communications service designed to allow hearing and speech impaired individuals to place telephone calls to hearing persons by typing messages over the Internet, which are then relayed by communications assistants (CAs) employed by an IP Relay provider. AT&T, as such a relay provider, would then bill the government about $1.30 per minute for the calls.

It’s alleged that AT&T, despite the mandate that the service be restricted to U.S. customers only, knew that the service was being abused by Nigerian scammers and other criminals overseas, but allowed the calls to take place because they accounted for 95% of AT&T’s IP Relay call volume.

“Taxpayers must not bear the cost of abuses of the Telecommunications Relay system. Those who misuse funds intended to benefit the hearing- and speech-impaired must be held accountable,” said David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

According to Bloomberg, AT&T billed the government $16 million for the calls, to which the government is asking three times that amount in damages. The DOJ learned of AT&T alleged actions after a call center employee filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in Pittsburgh. The government intervened from that point.

In a statement AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said that the telecom giant followed the rules for IP Relay usage, and is looking for the expected reimbursement.

“As the FCC is aware, it is always possible for an individual to misuse IP Relay services, just as someone can misuse the postal system or an email account, but FCC rules require that we complete all calls by customers who identify themselves as disabled.”

The case is U.S. ex rel. Lyttle v. AT&T Corp., No. 2:10-cv-1376 (W.D. Pa.).

Around the Web

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus

From Autosaur.com

Chevrolet shows off the 2015 Colorado with digital experience

Chevrolet has launched a new website to show buyers all the bells and whistles available on ...

Mazda to debut CX-3 and MX-5 at Los Angeles Auto Show

Mazda has announced plans to premiere the new Mazda CX 3, its new compact crossover SUV, at ...

Ford issues safety recall for 204,448 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX

Ford has issued a safety recall for 204,448 of the 2007-2008 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX in No...

Mopar Previews SEMA Custom Rides

We have added a set of pictures released by Mopar ahead of the SEMA Show. Mopar are bri...

Audi R8 Competition – The Most Powerful Production Audi Ever

Audi has revealed details of their new super-fast Audi R8 Competititon — the most powerful a...