When Barrett Smith got the strange, operator-assisted call, he knew exactly what was up. The president of Auto Damage Experts, Inc., in Dover, Fla., had read about the scam in BodyShop Business and knew how to handle it.
“It was the same old song and dance about a guy who has a Cadillac Escalade in Texas in need of inspection/repair and needed it towed for a fee,” Smith said. “In recognizing this as the scam it was, I advised the operator that this was a fraud scheme and that the entire industry was well aware of it and the caller needed to ‘get a life.’ Upon conveying my message, the operator advised the caller and terminated the call. She apologized and advised there was nothing she could do as it would require the federal government to investigate.”
The scam goes as follows: a call is placed to a body shop through IP Relay, a service offered by AT&T, Sprint, MCI and others that allows deaf people and people with speech impediments to connect via any Web-ready computer, PDA or phone. The “customer” claims to need a tow to the shop’s city from somewhere out of state but needs cash because the tow company won’t accept a credit card. The customer then asks the shop to charge an amount ranging from $2,500 to $3,500 to his or her credit card (presumably stolen), then wire the same amount of cash to him or her.
The FCC says that some businesses have requested Telecommunication Relay Services (TRS) providers not make calls to their numbers, but, per regulations, TRS providers can’t refuse to make an outbound call requested by a TRS user in any circumstance. Section 225 of the Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to ensure that TRS “gives each person with hearing or speech disabilities functionally equivalent access to the telephone network.”
Ron Kromer of Ultimate Collision Center in Brick, New Jersey, has received some of the IP Relay scam calls, too, and urges anyone who receives a similar call to file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.