INDIANAPOLIS — A company operating out of Evansville is now accused of being a gateway into the U.S. for foreign robocallers, and is being sued by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.
On Thursday, Attorney General Todd Rokita announced his office filed a civil lawsuit against Startel Communication LLC.
A year and a half investigation discovered evidence that more than 4.8 million calls were sent to Hoosiers through this company.
“We have led the nation lately by working with private businesses and setting them against the, the good actors, working with the good actors to create a telecom industry trace back group,” said Indiana AG Todd Rokita. “And it was through this trace back group that we were able to greatly expedite the investigation process.”
The company, operated in Evansville by Wanda Hall and Abhijit Chowdhury, is no longer in operation, but is believed to have allowed robocallers to make hundreds of millions of calls across the U.S.
The robocallers allegedly operated a variety of scams, including IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, legal action or arrest scams, computer support scams, Apple support scams, and Amazon subscription scams.
“This is a warning to the industry, stop the robocalls or it’s gonna cost you money, all the money you think you’re gonna make by treating people this way, that and more is gonna be taken from you,” Rokita said.
This marks one of the first cases in the country to see a civil suit filed against a gateway company, with the AG’s office pursuing both federal and state law claims.
Of the Hoosiers who were called, more than 780,000 of them were on the federal Do Not Call Registry and over 605,000 were on the Indiana Do Not Call list.
Their investigation also uncovered two companies in California that were involved and knew Startel was sending robocalls.
Those companies were each paid more than $100,000 to look the other way. They are now the focus of an investigation by the California Attorney General.
Rokita says that one issue they face in investigating these cases, comes from a lack of people reporting robocalls to authorities and others that can take action.
He adds people often feel embarrassed for being deceived. However, they should still report them to help prevent these robocalls from causing trouble to others.
Rokita’s office did offer these tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls in the future:
- Be wary for callers asking you to pay by gift card or cryptocurrency.
- Look our for prerecorded calls from government agencies you weren’t expecting. Agencies like the IRS or SSA typically do not call people.
- If you suspect fraud, do not provide any personal information and end the call.
- Be sure to report the call to the Consumer Protection Division at (888) 834-9969 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Register your phone number with both the national and state “Do not call” lists
If you receive any unwanted text messages, you can forward those to 7726 to have them investigated by your carrier.