‘Pretexting’ for fun and profit over for phone record thieves

Score one for the good guys. Two more data brokers have been shut down for ‘pretexting’ or using false pretenses, fraud or stolen documents to scam consumers’ private telephone numbers and call histories.

The Federal Trade Commission announced on Wednesday two new settlements in a series of 16 nationwide investigations of firms illegally obtaining confidential phone records and lists of phone calls placed and received without the consent of consumers. Those lists are then re-sold to marketers, private investigators or basically anybody with 70 bucks and a mean streak.

In June 2006, then-state representative Jim Welker (R-Loveland) was hauled before Congress to testify on pretexting practices used at his firm, Universal Communications Co. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In news accounts, Welker claimed that his firm was not engaged in illegal activities and did not sell the data to the public. He voluntarily stopped selling phone data shortly after the hearing.

Welker’s firm is not without previous controversy. In 2002, then-Attorney General Ken Salazar sued Universal Communications for illegally trapping phone numbers and selling them to debt collectors.