Bainbridge phone numbers used in international scam

Nationwide complaints of threatening phone calls seeking personal information have been traced to numbers from Bainbridge Island, police said.

The calls are a part of an international system of fraud based on numbers leased by several communications companies falling into the wrong hands, according to a state released today by police Lt. Sue Shultz.

A local number can be bought over the Internet with a credit card and limited subscriber information, police said. Purchasers then use these numbers, which allow a caller to log in from anywhere by using a area code that masks their location.

Level 3 Communications, a Colorado-based company that owns the Bainbridge phone numbers, leases the numbers to online telecommunication companies, which can then sublease the numbers to individuals.

Purchasing the numbers from these services allows the callers to bypass U.S. Federal Communications Commission laws and avoid do-not-call lists.

The calls, which were reported by residents in Florida, Texas, California and New Jersey, feature men or women that police say have either a Middle-Eastern or Indian accent. The callers claim to be part of an investigation for which personal information is necessary.

When citizens refused to provide personal information, the callers often resorted to threatening behavior. Reports indicated that the callers placed more than 10 consecutive calls to various individuals.

In a voicemail provided by police, a male claiming to be from the Legal Investigation Bureau located on Mercer Island sought the personal information of an individual currently involved in "legal situation." The caller gave a Bainbridge Island call-back number and told the citizen to "call me back as soon as possible or else you don't know what's going to happen next to you."

The police press release also said that a Suquamish woman, who was told she needed to send money to help her grandson overseas, attempted to wire $2,000 before learning of the scam.

Police said the nature of the crime makes it nearly impossible to track, and the future emphasis will be on forcing the companies that lease these numbers to individuals to require more information and be more judicious to whom they lease numbers.

Investigations have been filed with the FTC, FCC, and open conversations with the state Attorney General’s Office, police said.

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