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Schumer calls for action against phone scam targeting businesses

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wants to make it harder for phone hacking rings to rip off New York state businesses. Schumer is hearing from New Yorkers about dozens of businesses that are racking up huge phone bills because of these hackers.

Imagine being a small business, and opening up a monthly phone bill to find charges amounting to $150,000 dollars because of almost 9,000 overseas calls that the business never made. That's what happened to Best Cleaners in the Capital Region -- one of several businesses falling prey to this phone hackers scam in New York state.  

"The fraud has occurred repeatedly in New York, when hackers discover a loophole in voicemail systems of local companies," explained Schumer. "They infiltrate that voicemail, and then use it to make long distance calls that can cost the company thousands of thousands of dollars."

Schumer was in Syracuse Monday to announce that he is looking for action on a couple of fronts. First, he wants telephone companies to be able to spot such activity early on -- as in the case of credit card fraud.  He also is asking that those companies don't force businesses to pay  the fraudulent charges, and is asking the Federal Communications Commission to look into regulations on the issue as well.

Schumer also notes that authorities are looking into the possibility of a connection between this kind of phone fraud and Al Qaeda, which has been known to use the businesses phone lines for money-making or communication purposes in the past.

"Al Qaeda has used this type of hacking sometimes to make money, but usually to communicate through ways that can't be detected, or be detected much later. You know, if the phone number shows a Syracuse business it's not going to be an Al Qaeda name at the other end."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.