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I am planning to move to New Hampshire soon, and one of the great benefits of living there is that unlike most states, private citizens can prosecute misdemeanors. That means once I become a New Hampshire resident I can summon and bring to court people or organizations that are breaking the law, so long as the law is a misdemeanor and I am the aggrieved party.

So, what kind of criminal organization am I thinking about? Robocallers of course!!!

In New Hampshire, the Federal laws concerning illegally calling someone on the Do-Not-Call (DNC) list are replicated by local statute. That means the criminal penalties for illegally calling somebody on the DNC in New Hampshire are legally actionable. I think the penalty is $1500 per call or something like that.

So, my only problem is identifying the perps. Obviously if they are in Pakistan there is nothing I can do, but a lot of "Rachel" calls apparently originate in the US and are made by US-based organizations. Can I just subpoena the phone company to get true of the identity of the caller, or is it going to be more complicated than that?

I know I can get an answer here by just starting an action in court and I am sure the phone company's lawyer will explain everything to me, but I am hoping somebody here is an expert in call tracing and give me the lowdown on how to do criminal phone tracing ahead of time so I have a leg up on the process.

  • FWIW, Washington state has the same mirroring of DNC law, and the ability to pursue the violations in Small Claims Court -- and the courts weren't (when I lived there until 2004) choked with Do Not Call violation cases. Even before Caller ID spoofing it wasn't easy to identify who to sue. – Zeiss Ikon Sep 20 '18 at 18:54
  • I'm told that you must warn the caller before you can take action. There's a time limit beyond that where another call is not considered "pesky." It's a year for a second offence after you tell them to put you on the DNC list. lotzaloopholes! – Stan Sep 20 '18 at 19:54
  • @Stan LOL, if it is a US-based entity or person, I win as soon as I identify them, because simply bringing them to court will cost them $10,000 minimum to fight the charges. If they can get the case dismissed by paying me $3000, they will jump at the chance to take that deal. It will never get to the point where legal arguments are important. – Tyler Durden Sep 20 '18 at 20:01
  • Great question. I've always wondered why you can't go after the (US-based) organisation that finances the whole thing on a "conspiracy to commit..." basis. If I were to employ an French-based assassin to come to the UK and kill somebody for me, assuming there was a paper-trail that tied me to the murder, I would be deemed guilty of conspiracy to murder. Surely, the fact that the call terminates at a US-based scam/company is enough evidence that they have conspired to break the law...? – Lefty Sep 25 '18 at 7:38
  • I don't know how you are going to trace the calls, so I've been recording my conversations with them with the goal of finding them in real life (IRL). I had a US based guy on the line for over 20 minutes one time, giving him several fake credit card numbers during this time, you should have heard the expletives when I finally let him know I knew he was a scammer. Scammer is really too nice of a word, these people are really thieves/criminals and should be treated as such. – Glen Yates Sep 24 at 19:41
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There is no effective way for ordinary people to trace back these calls, never mind obtain compensation from the callers. Calls are initiated by a foreign entity (boiler room in Delhi or Karachi, for instance), backhauled through the internet, and translated to POTS locally to the target. The latter is a generic service used by all modern long distance carriers; backhauling is used by every phone room service, foreign or domestic (call your ISP's support line sometime during off hours and listen for the accent on the other end), and there are no international treaties extending American telephone law to foreign companies.

Backhauling is converting a call to digital (if it didn't start as VOIP), and transmitting it between POPs (Points of Presence) via the Internet. If you live in New York City and dial an Anchorage number, your call will be on analog lines, at most, to your telco's POP, where it will be digitized and transmitted over the Internet backbone to a POP in Anchorage, where it's demodulated onto an analog line for the "last mile" to your target's phone. If you were to call Fairbanks, you'd insert a hop via satellite into that path, as might be the case if you call Karachi or Beijing.

The salient point is digital conversion -- to trace the call back, you'd need to know what POP the local leg originated from, then capture at least one packet and read its headers to learn the originating IP address (which is likely another POP), then find out (from that POP -- which would require its cooperation) what if any analog line brought the call in on that end (if it started as VOIP, all you'll get is an IP address and maybe a whois link).

All of this is complicated by caller ID spoofing -- which would require that the trace be done while the offending caller is on the line in order to have access to the backhaul packets. It likely would require the local telco's equipment to be in on the operation, as well.

The best you might be able to do is block repeated calls from the same source, but they spoof a different number (often one local your phone) for each individual call, so blocking individual numbers gains nothing (other than ensuring your neighbors can't call you, since spoofed numbers are often valid, in-use destinations).

Until cell and landline phone carriers want to stop spam calling (like ISPs wanted to stop spam) technology that exists (for instance, packet tracing the backhaul stage) won't happen, and these methods aren't available to the call recipients. If you could get a million people to switch phone carriers because of spam calls, it might have some effect -- but most likely they'd just be churning between the same three or four carriers, who wouldn't even notice.

  • Hmm, could you explain "backhauling" a little more clearly so I understand how the origin is being disguised? In my case, I will have the power of subpoena, so it is a question of what the phone company can do, not what I can do. – Tyler Durden Sep 20 '18 at 17:58
  • Edited. More detail on backhauling added. This is about as far as I can go; I don't work in the telecom industry, I just know something about how their technology and that of the Internet work together. – Zeiss Ikon Sep 20 '18 at 18:08
  • Ok, I will upvote that. I think from a Life-hacking point of view, trying to figure out this phone maze has some value. I thought that phone companies had absolute ways to trace calls because some calls involving criminal threats or threats to life are taken seriously by the phone companies, but from what you are saying, that is not true and it is easy to make a completely untraceable call? – Tyler Durden Sep 20 '18 at 18:13
  • If you dial a call from an ordinary private line phone or a cell handset, it's traceable if anyone is willing to apply the technology (and it doesn't require keeping the caller on the line for 90 seconds any more). If you intentionally set up things like Caller ID spoofing and start with a VOIP system, it's not all that hard for someone knowledgable with the technology to render a call too much trouble to trace if there isn't murder or kidnapping on the line. – Zeiss Ikon Sep 20 '18 at 18:24
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    That might be okay, if you don't ever, ever want any stranger to be able to call you for any reason. Could have some unforeseen results, I think. – Zeiss Ikon Sep 20 '18 at 18:52
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Bell Canada had a "star" (*) code to work interactively with the automated telephone relays for individual-line residence and business where it is technically possible. Contact your provider to see if there is a similar system in New Hamster that might help.

It is called "Call Trace" available for a $5 fee per use. It works regardless of caller number blocking. You pay only if the call is successfully traced. It was mandated by the Canadian Government a while ago and immediately involved the police.

  1. As soon as the offensive call is terminated, hang up.
  2. Pick up and listen for a dial-tone.
  3. Press *57.
  4. A voice message will tell you if the call has been successfully traced.
  5. Hang up.
  6. If the call has been traced and you wish to have the caller legally charged, contact the local police department. Remember that a traced number will only be given to the police and only if they provide the phone company with proper legal authorization. (That's your intention to pursue legally to prosecute. You have to contact the police to start the process after your call.)

For what it's worth, the explicit instructions for the national (US and Canada) "DO NOT CALL LIST" are

  1. Say, "Put me on your do not call list."
  2. Note the date
  3. Keep records
  4. Contact the authorities if they call within 1 year.

The Bell Canada representative I called said that an unlisted number was one alternative; but, that it was not effective with autodialers and call blocking for up to 12 numbers which wasn't 100% effective. Call screening was another but had access disadvantages for anyone not on your limited acceptable calls list.

Good luck

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