Feds: AT&T makes millions off scam calls

Is AT&T relying on Nigerian scammers to make millions of dollars off the U.S. government?

The company insists it is not, but the Justice Department claims it is and is suing AT&T to get its money back.

The department said AT&T is improperly billing Uncle Sam under a Federal Communications Commission program that allows the hearing-impaired to make international calls, according to a Hill.com report on the lawsuit.

Under the program using Internet protocol relay, the hearing-impaired place calls by typing Internet messages that are relayed by an AT&T communications assistant. The FCC reimburses  AT&T at a rate of about $1.30 per minute.

The company instead is knowingly allowing people who aren’t hearing-impaired to use the service to order goods with stolen credit cards and counterfeit checks, according to the Justice Department  suit.

AT&T was ordered in 2009 to verify that callers were hearing-impaired, but it didn’t, the Justice Department said. The suit says nearly 95 percent of calls made under the program since November 2009 were made to scam U.S. businesses.

According to the suit:

“As a result of AT&T’s false and fraudulent claims for payment of international callers, whose misuse of IP Relay was facilitated by the company’s deficient registration processes, the United States has paid millions of dollars for calls by Nigerian and other international fraudsters.”

A spokesman for AT&T told the Hill.com the company has “followed the FCC’s rules for providing IP Relay services for disabled customers and for seeking reimbursement for those services.”

Spokesman Marty Richter also said the company is obligated by FCC rules under the program to complete calls by customers who identify themselves as disabled.”

The Justice Department suit was inspired by a whistle-blower suit filed by former AT&T communications assistant Constance Lyttle, who worked in one of the company’s call centers. Lyttle’s suit also alleges AT&T sought FCC payments for calls that were made by persons ineligible for the IP Relay service.

In December, AT&T sued the FCC after the agency voted to overhaul a subsidy program that funds high-speed Internet service regions of the country that lack broadband service. The new program, however, caps disbursements to Internet service providers like AT&T.

35 comments Add your comment

Unamerican Activities Committee

March 23rd, 2012
2:32 pm

Go get the AT&T crooks.

Name (required)

March 23rd, 2012
2:34 pm

Wow! Thats almost as criminal as the AT&T labour unions!


March 23rd, 2012
2:52 pm

I am glad about this news story. Not only does AT&T rake in the bucks for this, they just put all kinds of charges on bills every month and if a customer does not search through the bill every month, they pay hundreds of dollars not warranted every year. I know this for a fact. The FEDS needs to investigate this and soon.

Emil Blatz

March 23rd, 2012
2:55 pm

Why is the FCC – the body of the federal government which should have the most expertise in the state of the art in communications technology participating in this? Why don’t these folks use FREE IM services like everyone else?

Auntie Christ

March 23rd, 2012
2:57 pm

AT&T has been complicit in telephone, text and internet scams for decades, by being the collection agent for the scammers. Scams like “psychic hot lines” that billed the gullible $5-10 per minute, or the scams that tell users to text “fraud” to 12345 that don’t tell the user that they automatically sign up for some “service’ at $12/month to be added to their cell phone bill. AT&T agents then try to claim they are powerless to remove the items from the users’ bills, which is a blatant lie. Complain long enough and loud enough and they remove the charges. but the point is AT&T knowingly aids and abets in these criminal enterprises, which is why I don’t do business with AT&T.


March 23rd, 2012
3:10 pm

I pray that FCC get into the their billing system not only AT&T but I hope they do a complete investigation an I ‘ll bet my U-verse Slamming is systematic with all of these communication providers.They’re more of a problem i.e. AT&T have this special for 49.95 then when you get the bill its $80.I want the FCC to dig deep and make them clean it up and stop making our credit bad with a systematic practice that is follow by all of them.


March 23rd, 2012
3:25 pm

I had two scam companies adding charges to my AT&T bill each month; when I called AT&T to find out why they were allowing third parties to run charges through on my bill, they said they couldn’t help me–that I had to contact the scam companies. I did – finally – after much work to track them down and get a real person to actually talk to me. It took 3 months to get the charges refunded on my AT&T bill. Total scams, and you know AT&T is getting something from these companies.


March 23rd, 2012
3:34 pm

Since obama is in the business of forcing his will on big business, he should take hold of ATT and have it reorganized to where it makes no profit as a government entitiy


March 23rd, 2012
3:47 pm

AT &T is a corporate criminal conspiracy anyway. I am one of their customers. I should know.


March 23rd, 2012
3:52 pm

They need to investigate the unfair hiring practices, all the jobs being sent overseas (India, Philippines, and Russia), and the bias wage differences within employee levels. Absolutely nothing surprises me when it comes to AT&T. NOTHING !!!


March 23rd, 2012
3:54 pm

AT&T your scam delivered…


March 23rd, 2012
3:58 pm

Another nice example of selective “Comments On” by the AJC. Nothing like encouraging the recent proliferation of portraying corporations in a negative light. So this article allows comments while the headliner regarding the state of Georgia’s ranking 6th in illegal immigrants doesn’t allow comments. Is this not obvious to you folks what’s going on here? Wise up.


March 23rd, 2012
4:04 pm

ATT&T is and has been for a long time little more than a criminal organization run by the most foul thugs on the planet. They actually think they can get away with murder simply because “we’re AT&T – we do what we want”. I would love to see the day the government finally grows a big enough pair and takes that company over, fires 90% of the work force and starts fresh.


March 23rd, 2012
4:09 pm

Somehow I was billed for a 3rd party off brand cellular AND PAGER service on my phone bill a few years back. Who the H8LL still uses pager services? I called to complain that the charges were not mine. I was told they were aware of the problems of this happening but I would have to have the 3rd party remove the charges. After a few months of monthly charges accruing and having been unable to have those charges removed, I dropped my home phone service. Even after knowing that the charges were not mine, my account was turned over to a collection agency. I paid it just to keep it from going any further on my credit report.

Jay Dubu

March 23rd, 2012
4:14 pm

Can you please just shut them down completely? They continue to be involved in everything wrong with business.


March 23rd, 2012
4:15 pm

If they fire the current workforce could they please bring back Ma BellSouth and my old job???!!!!
After the merger, I was laid off and still unemployed..just read the latest article on companies not hiring us folks as we have been out of work way too long…and yes, I am hearing impaired myself but I have never heard of this scam before as I worked in data center not the call center!


March 23rd, 2012
4:32 pm

Good, I hope they fine the crap out of them. I have to audit my older parents cell phone bill everyone much to avoid AT&T from ripping them off. The random charges never cease to amaze me. Last month they added an internet package to my mother’s phone claiming she put her SIM in a smart phone. She uses a 5 year old phone and then refused to give a full refund claiming they text-ed her to let her know. She has no idea how to use texting. It is a shame how low companies will scoop to avoid cost control on executives salariess


March 23rd, 2012
4:34 pm

AT & T is lower in status than BOA and Comcast.. That very hard to accomplish without having a plan.


March 23rd, 2012
4:53 pm

it’s about time. i am a former att customer, and these people will screw you 3 ways from sunday, and they do not care.


March 23rd, 2012
4:55 pm

ALl unions should be outlawed


March 23rd, 2012
5:02 pm

I never did trust AT&T.


March 23rd, 2012
5:13 pm

If anything the FCC should be sued for being stupid.

I think our government institutes programs like this in the hopes of being taken advantage of, and consequently give the justice department something to do. I wish I could keep myself busy the same way our government keeps itself busy; I would never be out of work again!


March 23rd, 2012
5:17 pm

We do not have a problem with AT&T . . . We do not use them for home or cell. Problem solved.


March 23rd, 2012
5:32 pm

this is just silly… I find it strange that the same branch of the government (the justice department) barred the AT&T/T-mobile merger. Sounds like someone has it out for AT&T. As far as illegal or unethical business practices.. give me a break. AT&T is not only one of the largest employers in the US but they offer great pay and insurance… Let the government ruin another great company…

Default Settings 2.0

March 23rd, 2012
5:51 pm

Tracfone,Virgin Mobile Prepaid and others have a few benefits: bill collectors hate them, bill collectors hate them and what else? Don’t like who’s calling you? Drop your phone and get another one. Pre paid is awesome!

Atlanta Girl

March 23rd, 2012
5:54 pm

Looks like a settlement is getting ready to be made….look out for 5000-10,000 layoffs!

Bogus AT&T charges

March 23rd, 2012
6:03 pm

We had 3rd party charges magically appear on our business phone bill too. AT&T claims they knew nothing about it & couldn’t do anything about it. Even though it’s on THEIR OWN BILL. We contacted the 3rd party & they claimed that they spoke with someone on a certain date at a certain time that authorized the 3rd party service. What’s funny is that the date & time they gave put the authorization at like 10pm on a Saturday night. We are an 8-5 M-F company so there’s absolutely no way anyone WS even there to answer/agree. We were told it would be removed. THREE YEARS LATER our bill still had those charges on there. We continued paying our actual AT&T balance then they started sending letters threatening to cut our service completely. So another week of leaving messages & waiting for “managers” to call back & we finally got it removed.

Our contract expires in a couple months & we’ll FINALLY be able to leave them. Now if only I could transfer my unlimited data plan to Verizon…

Rick in Grayson

March 23rd, 2012
6:06 pm

Another one who lines with those that think AT&T are crooks!


March 23rd, 2012
7:36 pm

The sad part is that this situation involves a program designed to help persons with disabilities. They are the victims.

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March 25th, 2012
11:59 am

We dropped them years ago for billing us for bogus calls. Glad to see that someone is going after them.


March 27th, 2012
5:15 pm

I used to work for this company doing the exact same thing their being sued for. Had I known this was the job I was being hired to do I would have turned it down. This company is a joke they don’t care about their employees or customers. Make the bitches pay!

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[...] foreign scammers’ calls to its IP Relay service for the deaf, a lawsuit claims. Now the feds want their money back — more than $16 [...]

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