Hundreds, maybe even thousands of Central New Yorkers woke up in the middle of the night from a phone call – where the phone only rings once or a few times and hangs up.
“I got like three or four phone calls within an hour, and then I was just like wide awake. I then calmed down, and then about 4:30 it started again. Just a couple more phone calls. It was scary at that hour you know. It's like startling,” said Dominick Seymour, the owner of The Hair Room.
Dominick Seymour owns The Hair Room, and is upset that he had to go to work tired from dealing with the calls, but Dominick isn't alone. Donna Prentice too, had to get up in the middle of the night, to see who was calling.
“Oh, I didn't like it at all. Not at all. That's my time, but you know I have to leave my phone on so I can be contacted, and unfortunately probably a lot of people have to leave their phone on for that reason,” said Prentice, of West Edmeston.
Donna used an app called RoboKiller that blocked two more calls from waking her up, but Philip Arcuri didn't have the app, and after numerous calls, he got worried and called the number back. The callers are trying to get you to call back – so they can legally charge you anywhere from $4 to $16 a minute.
“It's disturbing to know that out there that they can get your number like that, and it's so easy nowadays to get your numbers, and if the price is – I'm not too sure on the price, what they charge you for it, but it is upsetting that now days it's so easy,” said Philip Arcuri, an Ilion phone scam victim.
The calls are originating from Mauritania, Africa, but the sheriff says don't expect police to hop on an airplane to go and arrest anybody.
“The phone company gets a portion of that charge, but a vast majority of that, like I said up to $16 a minute is going to these global scammers wherever they are with their high tech equipment, and before the authorities can figure out where they are in the world somewhere, they're up and they're gone and they're somewhere else doing this,” said Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol.
NewsChannel 2 did try and contact our local lawmakers to see if there's anything being done to try and stop the Robo-calling, but they're in session in Albany - Senator Joe Griffo's Office did release a statement saying:
"I remain concerned with the frequency of unsolicited, unwanted and unwelcome phone calls many, including myself, have received at all hours of the day and night. Understandably, people are fed up and annoyed. They put their name on the Do Not Call Registry for a reason, but the calls don’t stop. While the federal government should strive to find ways to fix any flaws in the Do Not Call Registry, I have sponsored legislation that I believe will better discourage telemarketers from violating this law in New York State and would increase the fine applied to violators of the Do Not Call Registry to $20,000 - nearly double the current punishment for those found to be in violation. I also am supportive of another bill that would enable telecommunication providers to preemptively block phone numbers that are the source of unsolicited automated phone calls. These invasions of your privacy should not be tolerated, and I will continue to do everything in my power to stop shameless telemarketers from bothering people who simply want to be left alone."
WKTV reached out to AT&T and Verizon – no response from them. Kirk Tupaj even reached out to the FBI to see how wide-spread the calling has gone, and no response from them either.
The sheriff recommends you not answer any calls that don't look legitimate, and if you do answer, don't call them back.