DoJ sues AT&T for IP Relay call abuse; says up to 95% of calls were from foreign callers

AT&T (NYSE: T) has been implicated in a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice of allowing fraudulent users to take advantage of its IP Relay service.

According to a filing the made in federal court in Pennsylvania, the DoJ said the system, which is used by the deaf and hard of hearing to place calls by writing messages on the Internet, was abused by international callers hailing from Nigeria to order items with stolen credit cards and counterfeit checks.

In a statement, AT&T said it followed the rules the FCC put in place in 2009 to prevent fraud and was not aware fraudulent users were accessing the system.

"As the FCC is aware, it is always possible for an individual to misuse IP Relay services, just as someone can misuse the postal system or an email account, but FCC rules require that we complete all calls by customers who identify themselves as disabled," said Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman in a Reuters article.

However, the DoJ added that AT&T did put safeguards in place to weed out or bar possible fraudulent users from registering to use the system. The FCC rules required AT&T and other service providers to verify registered users' name and mailing address.

AT&T was reimbursed $1.30 per minute for any call on the IP Relay system via a fund on paid for by a fee that appears on customers' phone bills.

DoJ alleged that up to 95 percent of the calls AT&T handled since 2009 were made by fraudulent foreign callers and that the service provider did not verify each user was from the U.S. "out of fears that fraudulent call volume would drop after the registration deadline."

The DoJ's suit follows a "private whistleblower" lawsuit filed in a Pittsburgh federal court by Constance Lyttle, a former AT&T call center worker.

For more:
- Reuters has this article

Related articles:
AT&T obtains DHS disaster-prep certification
AT&T closes in on Verizon in the U.S. telco TV race
Cable surpasses telcos in the broadband subscriber race