"Hello, this is Audrey, and I'm a social security disability adviser on a recorded line."
"Hi, there. This is Ethan on a recorded line calling from Medicare rewards."
State attorneys general say those excerpts are just two examples of the billions of illegal calls routed across the country by a Voice Over Internet Protocol Provider called Avid Telecom.
Transcripts from those calls appear in a federal lawsuit filed this week by the District of Columbia and 48 states, including Wisconsin. The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges Avid broke state and federal telecommunications laws and that the company knew, or should have known, it was enabling massive volumes of illegal calls.
That includes scam calls from telemarketers posing as government agencies or as major corporations, like Amazon or DirectTV, the lawsuit says.
Avid is based in Tuscon, Arizona. It sells dialing software, routing services and phone numbers to help its customers make mass robocalls, according to the lawsuit. More than 90 percent of the calls that Avid sent or attempted to send over a nearly 6-year period lasted just 15 seconds or less, the plaintiffs say. That short duration is often a red flag, since people typically hang up right away when they get a scam call or robocall, according to the suit.
It also alleges Avid transmitted over 7.8 billions calls to people on the Do Not Call Registry over that time period, including about 157 million calls to Wisconsin numbers.
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The lawsuit states Avid sent large volumes of calls using spoofed caller ID, so that telemarketers could pose as trusted agencies or businesses, or so they could pretend to be calling from a local area code. Spoofed numbers can also make it harder for people to block nuisance callers, and the suit alleges Avid Telecom sold bulk amounts of what's known as Direct Inward Dialing numbers — a type of number of that can make spoofing easier.
"Avid Telecom provided services customized to the needs of robocalling customers by enabling them to place a high volume of calls in quick succession, billing only for the duration of completed calls—typically in as little as 6-second increments— and ignoring clear indicia of illegal call traffic," the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs say Avid kept up its practices, despite getting numerous notices from downstream providers about possible wrongdoing. It also says Avid got at least 329 notifications from an industry-backed group that traces calls and notifies telecom providers about suspected illegal calls.
In a statement, Avid Telecom said it "operates in a manner that is compliant with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations."
"The company is disappointed that the Attorneys’ General chose not to communicate their concerns directly before filing the lawsuit," the statement says. "While the company always prefers to work with regulators and law enforcement to address issues of concern, as necessary, the company will defend itself vigorously and vindicate its rights and reputation through the legal process."
Avid's owner Michael Lansky and its vice president Stacey S. Reeves are also named as defendants in the suit.
Since the suit was filed, Lansky and Reeves have received "dozens of terrifying calls, including calls that contained threats to their lives," Neil Ende, a lawyer representing the company, wrote in an email Wednesday.