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  1. #1
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    Exclamation Relay calls for the deaf being used for scams *PLEASE READ*

    The following information has become my own personal crusade. This information affects my life every single day. And it breaks my heart every single day. I wanted to bring this story to the attention of all you sleuthers out there. I haven't done it before now because it'll be a bit of a time investment on my part to tell the whole story, and on your part for reading it all. It's an important story to tell though, and I hope everyone will take the time to read it because we, the Relay Operators and the Deaf Community, need your help. If I know one thing about websleuths, it's that we take up for those who are abused and taken advantage of. The story that follows is one big huge ABUSE of the entire deaf community and the operators who help them make their phone calls, and to contless American businesses who have been victims of this subject. Please help me help THEM.... Get the word out.


    All comments in purple are mine, so as not to confuse anyone.

    For those who aren't aware, IP Relay is an internet based relay telephone for people who are deaf, hard of hearing (HOH), or speech disabled (SD). This service makes telephone communications possible for this group of people who may otherwise not be abe to use a phone. An alternative is to use the old fashioned TTY machines which have really fallen by the wayside due to the newer technologies.

    The way it works is like this.. The deaf, HOH or SD person connects to a relay company such as www.ip-relay.com through the internet. They reach a relay operator (like me ) through the website. They tell the operator the number they want to dial, and in turn, the operator dials out and tries to reach the person the deaf person wants to call. When the person on the phone end of the conversation answers, the operator relays a conversation between the deaf user and the phone user. The deaf person types what they want to say, and the operator says it to the person on the phone. Then when the person on the phone replies, the operator types the message back to the deaf person and it goes back and forth like that. The operator is just like a "human phone line". We are to have no emotions about the call, no attachment to the callers or their stories. Sometimes that can be difficult, but it's a must if you want to be a good operator. But there are some things I just can't look past.

    First and foremost, it's a large group of Nigerians perpetrating fraud on American businesses using IP Relay. The nigerian connects to the operator, and calls a business pretending to be deaf. They then proceed to order thousands of dollars worth of merchandise bought by stolen credit card numbers, and quickly have the merchandise shipped to a middle-man (helper) inside the US. The middleman takes his cut and forwards the merchandise to Nigeria where it's sold on the black market. It all has to be done very quickly, because the card has not yet been reported as stolen or cancelled. All this is being done on the service intended for the deaf. It's an outrage. Deaf people who legitimitely need to use the phone to call someone, will sometimes wait in queue for up to an hour because all the operators are tied up with fraud calls. Imagine if you were deaf, and needed to call 911 as you're hiding in your house because you think someone's breaking in. You're trying to connect to an operator to call 911 for you. But you have to wait "your turn" because someone had hijacked your phone service to buy goods with stolen credit card numbers.


    Here's an article I found not long ago that directly pertains to this topic. Please take the time to read it. It explains everything much better than I can. I also have to be careful of what I can actually say, because I must abide by a strict confidentiatlity agreement, even if it does involve people who have hijacked relay to commit international credit card fraud which regularly puts small businessmen in America into bankruptcy. My goal is not to do a tell-all here about the calls, it's to inform the public of the alarming scam going on right under our noses.


    http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=7811
    FBI Agent Heads Sting that Brings Down 16 People Involved in Nigerian IP Relay Fraud Operations

    Working with a team of Nigerian national law-enforcement agents he trained last September, an FBI agent recently arrested 16 people on fraud and theft charges in Lagos, Nigeria. The team also seized or prevented delivery of more than $400,000 worth of merchandise stolen from U.S. businesses through credit card fraud, according to Dale Miskell, supervisory special agent in charge of the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center.


    Miskell is the FBI's man in charge of the "419 scam," a series of frauds perpetrated mostly over the Internet but also on the phone, using the Internet Protocol relay system meant for the deaf, speech-impaired, and hard of hearing.

    Here is an operator's story.
    http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=6249
    Robert Grodevant liked the idea of helping the deaf. As a communications assistant--or CA--for MCI, he earned $10.50 per hour to translate incoming text messages typed by deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-impaired people into spoken words he then relayed to hearing people over the phone. He says he enjoyed his job.


    But he didn't like being an accessory to international organized crime. For at least a year, crooks based mostly in West Africa have been taking advantage of an Internet-based telephone system known as Internet Protocol Relay, or IP Relay, meant for the deaf to use in order to speak to the nondeaf over the phone. Because IP Relay allows users to make free long-distance phone calls, the crooks cold-call businesses all day, every day.

    *SNIP*
    "On one given day I calculated that I purchased over $40,000 worth of laptops, inkjet cartridges, and T-shirts, all shipped to Africa," Grodevant says. "Lately they have it shipped to a relative in the U.S. and they forward it to Africa."

    *SNIP*


    Grodevant's experience is not unique. Several months ago he joined another CA who started an Internet bulletin board dedicated to the problem. Today more than 50 present and former CAs post on the board, all telling much the same story about their call centers around the country. Sources independent of the bulletin board say the same thing has been happening to the 200 CAs at the Maryland Relay call center in Baltimore, which is administered by AT&T.
    "You wouldn't believe what AT&T relay operators are asked to do," says one source who has worked as an operator at the Baltimore call center. (Like many CAs contacted for this story, the operator demanded anonymity, saying "they warned us that if we speak to you we will immediately be fired.") The source estimates that until recently 90 percent of the IP Relay calls coming through the Maryland Relay call center were fraudulent.
    *SNIP*

    I can vouch for this. I know for a fact, that before MCI started doing what they call "Fraud Suppression" procedures about 9 or 10 months ago, that at least 90 percent of my calls on any given day were scam calls from nigerians. I'll explain the "fraud suppression" procedures later, but in short, MCI implemented a set of criteria which would flag certain calls as fraudulent, and the supervisor would inform the person on the phone of the suspected scam, and disconnect the call. But, like any good scammer, they now know how to get around the criteria, and they make their little calls, one after another... after another...

    One facet of the crimes being committed here, is that now many, many businesses associate IP Relay with fraud. So a deaf person calling stores trying to do every-day business, like Old Navy, or Best Buy, or even a pharmacy, will get hung up on more often than not. Even calling 911 is affected. 911 Operators sometimes don't think that the call is a real emergency because people make so many prank calls to 911, knowing that they can't be traced.

    More from the article:


    For about a year, IP Relay communications assistants have been surreptitiously teaching one another how to foil the scams while holding on to their jobs. They've not only disconnected scammers and warned the potential marks, they've contacted the FBI, the Secret Service (which has jurisdiction over Nigerian scams), the FCC, and this newspaper, where an emotional anonymous voice-mail message from a Baltimore Relay CA triggered the reporting for this story. Several months ago, one CA started an Internet bulletin board under the title "Nigerian Scams Using IP Relay" to allow CAs to anonymously gripe, trade tips, and alert law enforcement, regulators, and the media to the problem. Authorities are finally taking notice. The board's administrator, who goes by the alias Buster Scambles, says he's got an FBI agent and the NBC television show Dateline interested. Calls to the FBI from City Paper were not returned, although a Secret Service agent takes down the details with interest. "I have to admit to you, this is the first I have heard of this," says Jeff Gappert, the assistant special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Baltimore field office.

    *SNIP*

    I would encourage each of you to go take a look at that message board that is discussed in the previous paragraph. The people named in this article are friends of mine from that message board. I post there actively, and it's kept me sane through some really insane days. the link to the Nigerian Scams Using IP Relay board is:
    http://ip_relay_scams.aimoo.com/

    Okay. I told you it would be a lot of reading. But I'm asking for your help. Our deaf, HOH or SD friends are being abused here. This is THEIR service, and it's been hijacked. American businesses are losing money to these scams hand over fist. I've talked to so many small business owners who told me that I had just saved them from a bankruptcy by warning them off a scam call. The problem is, I could lose my job for doing that. I want to keep helping the deaf people. I like my job. But now it's more like a CAUSE for me. I think this is something that's happened in my life where I can make a difference. But the more people that know, the better off we are.
    Last edited by mssheila; 03-14-2006 at 04:14 PM.

  2. #2
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    Here is a compilation of published articles about the abuse of Relay.

    http://www.gripe2ed.com/scoop/story/.../12/142033/366
    The relay services allow the deaf and/or mute to place a call over the Internet, sending and receiving text that is relayed by an operator. But it appears that privacy policies designed to protect relay system users can also be used by scammers to avoid detection

    http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml
    This article on the US Secret Service website explains in detail the general scam that is run by the nigerians, but not necessarily with IP Relay. They certainly run do use these tactics through relay now, but the article published here is talking about the scams in more general terms.

    http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/arti...te/state02.txt
    PIERRE (AP) South Dakota businesses need to beware of a new telephone scam, Attorney General Larry Long said. Businesses have been getting calls for large quantity orders through "relay operators," which typically are used by the hearing- impaired, Long said. But in this case, it is a fraud, he said.

    There is no valid link for this one, but I have included the email of the reporter who wrote it:
    January 30, 2004 -- Business owners warned of scam

    INTERNET SCAM: Scam artists pretend to be deaf, use valid credit card numbers stolen off Internet BY KEN KOSKY
    Times Staff Writer


    VALPARAISO -- Larry Rouch, the owner of Rouch's TV & Appliances in Valparaiso, became suspicious Tuesday when he received a telephone order from someone wanting 10 DVD players shipped to an address in Brownsville, Texas.
    Rouch received the order from someone apparently pretending to be deaf or handicapped. The caller typed messages to him that an operator translated into words for him to hear. The caller even provided credit card numbers.

    Rouch didn't ship the DVD players because he found it odd that someone from Texas would seek him out, and because he received an e-mail warning him about a similar scam.

    He called Valparaiso police Wednesday and they confirmed it was a scam.

    "It's pretty high-tech stuff," Detective Sgt. Perry Stone said.

    Stone said the ploy often works because the scam artists put a legitimate person -- an operator for the deaf -- in the middle. The credit card numbers are accepted because they have just been intercepted from the Internet. It isn't until weeks later that the credit card holder gets his credit card bill and sees the fraudulent charges.
    Ken Kosky can be reached at kkosky@nwitimes.com or (219) 462-5151, ext. 354.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4781806/
    Telephone operators who help the deaf use the Internet to make phone calls say the system is being overrun by con artists trying to cheat American merchants.
    *SNIP*
    Relay service has been hailed as a success by the deaf community. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they give those who are hard of hearing equal access to America's vast telephone network.

    But the system also offers that same free access to criminals looking to cheat U.S. merchants. The Internet-based relay system lets con artists call for free, even from far away places like Nigeria. It also helps disguise a caller's broken English, which in some cases could be a scam tip-off, and adds an air of sympathy to the call that might make otherwise suspicious merchants drop their guard.
    *SNIP*

    The link below will take you to the Operator's scam message board I posted earlier. It has an entire thread dedicated to posting news articles about this topic.
    http://www.aimoo.com/forum/postview....readID=1369960

    STOP RELAY ABUSE WEBSITE: I just found this site, it's fantastic!
    http://www.stoprelayabuse.com/index.html

    Another good read about relay abuse.
    http://argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll...511130332/1001



    Last edited by mssheila; 03-14-2006 at 04:15 PM.

  3. #3
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    This is amazing! I read every bit of it and my mouth has hung open. I just don't get people but I guess because they're from Nigeria they feel less connected to the people they are affecting.

    I applaud you mssheila for the work that you do and for bringing this to the public's attention. I hope something can be done!

  4. #4
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    Your help is needed!

    I posted this topic in Up to the Minute, because I wasn't sure where to post it. It seems to not have much interest though. That kind of bums me out... it's a little known, but very important issue on several levels. It affects all of us, yet.. there are no replies.

    If you know anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled it's important that they know what's happening with their relay system.

    PARENTS- If you have a teenager in your family, you should talk with them about this service because it's widely abused by teens making prank calls to eachother, which is a totally separate, and much less important topic.

    However, if you have a daughter or a son that uses Instant Messenger on the internet, here is what parents need to know- the Nigerians are targeting teenagers in chat rooms and on AOL IM or Yahoo IM. They are easier to manipulate, and give out too much info about themselves. Since one of the big goals of the Nigerians is to score an address in the U.S. to have their stolen items shipped to, they "meet" teens on the internet and gain their address info. Because most American businesses won't generally ship anything to Nigeria, they have to use an address in the US to send things to. I've heard stories about teenage girls giving out their address to a Nigerian over instant messenger because this guy (the scammer) wants to send them flowers. The next thing she knows, she's got 50 DVD players on her doorstep. She needs to get rid of it before her parents find out, so she tells the Nigerian to get it out of there. The nigerian sends UPS for same day service. Parents need to warn their kids about this.

    They offer the kids money, and even some of the stolen goods. Of course, the kids don't know it's stolen stuff, they've been given a sob story by some guy in another part of the world about how no one will ever ship anything to africa, a poor me story. So the teen gets offered a DVD player, a cell phone, an Ipod, Laptop, etc... for the trouble of holding the stuff until UPS gets there so this poor guy in Nigeria or Ghana can finally get his "first" DVD player...
    If you or anyone you know owns, manages, or works at a retail company, this is information you should have. They target only American businesses. They use stolen credit cards that they somehow obtain via hacking into people's computers.
    If you have anything for sale in a classified ad, they will try to buy it using forged money orders. They call people with PUPPIES for sale, for goodness sake. Puppies, cars, furniture, etc... anything in the paper with a phone number to call. They contact the owner, get their address, and tell them to hold the item for them, as they will send the money first thing. They will then send the fake money order for the item, and it's always made out for more than the sale price. This is where the scam comes in. They contact the person they sent the money to for the item via Relay, and they tell them that they wrote the wrong amount on the check and ask them to wire the difference back via western union. Once that's done, they get their money, never pick up the puppy (thank GOD), or whatever item they "bought" and the person who got scammed finds out a week or two later that the bank cannot honor the money order, as it was forged. The difference in the price of the puppy and the amount on the money order ranges from 50 dollars to several hundred dollars.
    I'm starting a campaign, including a possible expose to be aired on Dateline NBC, to bring public awareness to this issue. I need help spreading the word. I would like nothing more than to bring people up to speed on how to solve this problem, and how to identify a scam when they see it. I'm working in concert with the FBI, trying to bring these scammers down. I'm risking my job and much more just by getting involved in this. I hope some people will take a look at this topic and give me their ideas. I know it's a lot to read, but you might find it interesting once you understand the entire concept.

    I hope to get everyone to look at this thread. Thanks for your attention.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anngelique
    This is amazing! I read every bit of it and my mouth has hung open. I just don't get people but I guess because they're from Nigeria they feel less connected to the people they are affecting.

    I applaud you mssheila for the work that you do and for bringing this to the public's attention. I hope something can be done!
    Thanks for reading all of it. I was starting to worry! Sorry it's so long. But.. if you know anyone who uses the Relay service, or all the other people I listed above, the best thing you can do is warn them. Word of mouth is the best way to spread the info.

    I should add, too, that deaf people do business on the phone all the time too. It can be hard to decipher who's for real on these calls unless you're an operator. But usually, a deaf person who's trying to order some Tshirts or golf clubs, will do it over the internet. The odds of a deaf person using 5 different credit cards before one works, are pretty slim. Once I get more readers, I'll get into how to tell the difference between how a deaf user uses relay and how Nigerian uses relay.

  6. #6
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    Wow, I had no idea. It seems that there are a lot of scams going on that pertain to Nigeria. I'll keep up to date on this thread.

    Good luck!
    Just My Humble Opinion

  7. #7
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    Why in the world are all these internet scams coming out of Nigeria??? There are even phone scams and mail scams and they all seem to be out of Nigeria. The newest one I have heard of involve sending fake checks for large amounts to charities. The checks appear to be from a large corporation making a big donation to a reputable charity. The charity deposits the check and then the "corporation" calls or writes and tells them the donation was too large by accident and wants a partial refund. Of course the charity accomdates them and then the check turns out to be fake. This happened to PAWS (performing animal welfare society) here in the central valley. They received a check for $100,000. They have an annual operating requirement of $1,000,000, so this was a godsend, they thought. Because it appeared to be a check from a large bay area firm, they trusted it and deposited it. Immediately some of the funds were used for needed items and to pay vet bills. Then the check bounced and now they are scrambling to pay the bills for the money they spent.

    I hate that these jerks are taking advantage of the disabled and charities!!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheShadow
    The newest one I have heard of involve sending fake checks for large amounts to charities. The checks appear to be from a large corporation making a big donation to a reputable charity. The charity deposits the check and then the "corporation" calls or writes and tells them the donation was too large by accident and wants a partial refund. Of course the charity accomdates them and then the check turns out to be fake.
    I hate that these jerks are taking advantage of the disabled and charities!!
    This is the classic nigerian scam. As I said in an earlier post, they do this on a much smaller scale every day to people who have classified ads in their local newspapers selling things. Of course, this ad can only be seen by a nigerian if the newspaper is online. But anyway- the nigerian "accidentally" over pays for the puppy he wanted to "buy" and ask for the money to be wired back. The puppy seller finds out too late that it was a forged money order/cashiers check.

    Nigeria IS the hotbed for criminal fraud. Ghana is a pretty close second. But why that is... I just don't know. There are thousands of them doing the relay scams. I have no idea how you organize that many people to participate in something so.... awful.

  9. #9
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    I cannot believe how low some people will go.....it is just amazing.

    I will spread the word to everyone I know. Is there anything else we could do to help you? I would definitely be interested.

    Off topic question about being a relay operator.....Is this work you do from home or do you go to an office?? Thanks!

  10. #10
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    I don't have time to read this right now, but I am taking ASL this semester at school. Once I read it, I can forward it to my teacher, who is Deaf. I'm interested in hearing what she has to say. By the way, my teacher has a pet peeve. She says to always spell Deaf with a capitol D, because Deaf people have a culture and their own language. It's like saying english, italian, and spanish with small letters instead of English, Italian, and Spanish with capitols. I never knew, so feel enlightened right along with me. I will get back to you on this later. Thanks for caring.


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gardenmom
    By the way, my teacher has a pet peeve. She says to always spell Deaf with a capitol D, because Deaf people have a culture and their own language. It's like saying english, italian, and spanish with small letters instead of English, Italian, and Spanish with capitols. I never knew, so feel enlightened right along with me. I will get back to you on this later. Thanks for caring.
    Yes, please let your teacher know that this horrible abuse of the relay system is going on. If you have the time, maybe try to get some ideas from her about what SHE thinks would help in this area. ASL (AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE) teachers must know a heck of a lot about the deaf people and the deaf culture. We do have training, ongoing all the time, and I know what you're saying about capitalizing the D in Deaf.. but here's the thing about Big D Deaf people, and small d deaf people. Big D Deaf means people who are usually born deaf, and Deaf culture is a huge part of their life. Big D deaf people primarily use ASL sytnax grammar- ASL is their first language, but they are not typically too fluent in English. Small d deaf people are usually late-deaf people (not born deaf). Deaf culture is not their primary focus of culture. They are deaf, but don't follow all the customs that Big D Deaf people do. Also, for most late-deaf (small d) deaf people, ASL is not their first language, English is. I guess, the easiest way to say what I mean I just capitalize it appropriately for the sentence I'm writing because I'm talking about both Big D and small D. Does that even make sense? lol- I hope so.

    For Aerofan RW- I work in a call center. Because of the heavy emphasis on confidentiality regarding relay, and it's operations that's all I can really say. What can you do to help? Well.. if you're interested, I'd like to talk to you in email, if possible. I'm looking for people to get the word out about this, and I have some very specific and (I think) fantastic ideas on how to do that. I'd like to discuss it, though, off the public forum. My email address for anything relay related is available to anyone who would like to PM me here on the message board. Just fire off a PM, and I'll get back to you with my email asap.

    For anyone that will ask questions about what kind of calls I relay, etc... I cannot talk about anything regarding the content of any legitimate call. That would be a heavy breach of the confidentiality of the very people I'm trying to help and protect here. So if I don't answer all your questions, I'll always say "That's a confidentiality matter" and you'll all know what that means. Deaf and deaf users of relay just have regular phone calls like you or I. They call whoever they want or need to in day to day matters. And they talk about anything and everything. I love this job, and I'm hoping to make this service better and more accessible to those who need it to communicate, but less accessible to those

  12. #12
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    mssheila-
    I have a friend whose college-age daughter was born deaf and I have forwarded info about this scam to my friend. She probably heard of it long before I did, though. She has told me about the type of work you do. What a wonderful thing that is. Anyway, now her daughter has a cell phone and they text msg back and forth at times.

    I do understand about confidentiality, as it is essential in my line of work also, so I have great respect for what you have said about it.

  13. #13
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    Opie, just hearing that you passed it on to one person has made my day. I hope everyone tells at least one more person. Then I've made a difference. Thanks guys. I appreciate anything you do.

  14. #14
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    I was a relay operator....

    ...and the scams ultimately cost me my job. Because I wasn't allowed to say anthing to the people they were calling, I felt I was helping them break the law...and surely that's not the thing for a websleuther to do! Too bad, because I LOVED relaying the real calls.

    I hope something can be done about this!!!
    Jaybird

  15. #15
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    I just read the really long article. I thought it was very informative. I will pass this along to my teacher tomorrow. I have to look up her e-mail. I'd print it out, but one of my other classes is on the environment, and since it's so long, I decided to save a tree. I think my teacher uses the video relay or whatever its called. She loves it. I never really gave this stuff any thought until this class. I love it. I will be majoring in Speech Therapy next fall, with a minor in Deaf Studies. You are so kind to care about them. It's appalling what is being done. I'm interested in what you think will work. You can PM me if you want to.

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