FCC warns of fraud via phone relay service

The Baltimore Sun

The Federal Communications Commission is warning businesses that people posing as hearing-impaired consumers have been misusing the Internet-based telecommunications relay service (TRS) to commit fraudulent business transactions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and FCC regulations require that calls made using TRS be "functionally equivalent" to telephone calls. Reaching a specially trained communications assistant on TRS and instructing them to make a call is, in effect, the same as receiving a dial tone. Anyone can use TRS, and unfortunately, the FCC says, people without disabilities who are posing as hearing-impaired are using TRS and stolen or fake credit cards to scam businesses.

While the ADA prohibits businesses from rejecting calls made using TRS, businesses can take steps outlined below to protect themselves against fraud. The FCC is working with the Department of Justice, FBI and Federal Trade Commission to stop fraudulent transactions made by phone or over the Internet. To better protect yourself, the FCC urges merchants accepting orders by telephone for goods or services to take steps to ensure that any order placed by phone is valid and the purchaser is authorized to use a particular credit card.

Merchants should also beware of callers who are happy to order "whatever you have in stock; supply multiple credit cards as one or more are declined; can't provide the credit card verification code number (the three-digit number on the back of the card); want goods shipped through a third party and/or to an overseas location; and change delivery or payment method after the order has been approved."

If you believe you've been a victim of fraud or attempted fraud, report it to the FTC at www.ftc.gov or 888-FTC HELP.

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