Scammers threaten to cut your company's phone lines unless you pay a fake debt
Scammers are now threatening to disable your employer's phone lines unless you agree to pay up a fictitious debt. This new and bizarre phone scam has been making rounds in the United States in the past couple of months.
The phone calls are being placed by criminals using voice over IP telephone lines, which means that they are able to place 100 of millions of calls from the comfort of their own home in a very short period of time.
The sheer bizarreness of the scam is hard to explain.
Imagine receiving a call one day from an individual who claims to be calling from a financial institution in order to collect a debt that you've never heard of. When you begin to object the individual starts threatening you saying that unless you pay up his "company" has the authority to disable all of your company's phone lines. After a while the threat turns into action and all of the phone lines and your company are disabled.
The origin of the phone calls is unknown, in one instance the Police Department was able to trace the phone call back to Nigeria through an intermediary in Florida.
Similar to the way that you can clog up your bathroom if you throw too much brown paper into the toilet, scammers are able to clog up the phone systems by placing millions of automated telephone calls which can block a whole organization's phone system. In an article published written by Nick Wingfield and published by NY times
scammers even went as far as blocking the telephone lines of a hospital's intensive care unit for six hours. These denial of service attacks have also been perpetrated against other public sector institutions such as Sheriff's Offices' and even the Coast Guard. In all there have been 200 such phone attacks identified in the past against the public sector.
These attacks are very similar in nature to the Internet ones which go by the same name, Denial of Service or "DOS". On the Internet the attackers also clog up all of the site's available connections (which are comparable to phone lines) and when legitimate visitors try to visit the site they get an error "page cannot be displayed", as long as the attack is maintained the website will remain blocked.
Many the victims were forced to pay up because they were afraid of losing their jobs, since the blame for the attack rested on their shoulders. Some companies also paid in order to liberate their phone lines.
If you receive a similar phone call immediately report it to the police and to callercenter.com in order to make the scammer's telephone number public. You can also try to mitigate the risk by employing some technological countermeasures, a company called SecureLogix was apparently able to help the hospital which came under one of these attacks.
As the price of placing phone calls goes down we're bound to see more and more of these scams in the future, so always remain vigilant and informed.