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WKYT Investigates | Why am I getting so many spam calls from ‘Warsaw’?

The city’s mayor is as annoyed with it as you are.
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 2:43 PM EST
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WARSAW, Ky. (WKYT) - Along the banks of the Ohio River, the Kentucky town first called Fredericksburg looks like it could be pulled straight from a political ad - or maybe a movie.

It is the kind of small town that fills the pages of storybooks. But, to some, this city, now known as Warsaw, has a less-friendly connotation.

“I hope there’s a way to fix the problem,” said Mayor Charlie French. “I think it may be giving Warsaw a bad name.”

French is serving his second term as mayor. He was upset to learn the extent to which scammers and spammers have co-opted his northern Kentucky town’s southern hospitality.

“I don’t want these spam calls to blemish our image,” he told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer. “I just think that these companies and these people are taking advantage of this small town - and it’s not just this one, it’s all over the state, I believe.”

The locations for the spam calls people receive often vary depending on where they live - or the area code of their phone number. But for many in the Lexington area, “Warsaw, KY” is a common sight on the caller ID, often accompanied with the label “spam risk.”

“Everyone hates this,” said Jonathan Farmer, a special attorney for consumer protection within Kentucky’s Office of the Attorney General. “There isn’t anyone who’s in favor of this. It’s just a difficult problem, and we’re working really hard to try to fix it.”

Officials with the attorney general’s office say unwanted calls are the top consumer complaint they get statewide. The most common robocalls are about:

  • Social Security
  • arrest warrants
  • the lottery
  • tech support
  • car warranties

The attorney general’s office says in 2020, Kentuckians reported losing $1.2 million to phone scams.

“This isn’t a problem just for Kentucky, it’s a problem for the country,” Farmer said.

Federal agencies and attorneys general from across the country are cracking down. A number of initiatives and efforts have been implemented in recent years especially as the problem has grown.

In 2017, the National Association of Attorneys General formed the Robocall Technologies Working Group, a task force of state attorneys general and 12 major telecommunications providers that looks at ways to reduce the number of illegal robocalls reaching people’s phones.

The Industry Traceback Group aims to trace, source and stop those calls.

And a 2019 measure known as STIR/SHAKEN provides a framework for phone companies to implement technology to authenticate caller ID data in hopes of cutting down on “spoofed” sources.

“It’s like a cat-and-mouse game,” Farmer said. “It’s constantly that we’re going after them, and then we’ll do something, we’ll shut down an avenue, and they’ll try to adapt.”

Investigators say most legitimate telemarketers follow U.S. law and “Do Not Call” lists, so most spam calls many people receive are likely scammers. (This will not come as a surprise to anyone who still answers calls from unknown numbers.)

Officials say those scammers are often located overseas, not in the United States, and use technology to “spoof,” which allows them to put virtually any working phone number in the caller ID - including ones near your location.

And including Warsaw.

“I don’t understand it,” Mayor French said. “But I promise we’re not sitting up here calling people all over the state, I promise you we’re not.”

A WKYT Investigates search did not turn up any call centers located in Warsaw, even as call center operations were found in other more populous cities around the region.

One job posting found online did list an open position in Warsaw for a telemarketer with a cable company, but that does not line up with many of the calls reportedly received from the town.

WKYT’s Garrett Wymer called back the numbers of several calls listed as spam risk that went unanswered, connecting him with an automated recording for “Auto Warranty Services” - currently the No. 1 robocall complaint at the Office of the Attorney General, according to Farmer.

Mayor French said he was not surprised about the spam calls claiming to be from his city. After all, like several other Warsaw residents, he said he has even gotten some himself.

“My parents have been deceased for a few years, several years, but I got a call from their old landline number,” French said. “I’m like, ‘Oh.’ I was a little upset over that one.”

Not to mention the robocalls he continues to get that appear to be from other small Kentucky towns. Still, he says he had no idea the Warsaw calls were so common.

“The more we talk about it, the more I’m like, yeah, I don’t want people to think we’ve got a call center here and we’re calling all over the state or the country or the region to bother people,” he said. “We don’t. We don’t have a call center here. We never have, probably never will.

“It does bother me, French continued. “Because this is a nice town. We all take pride in this place. We love it here. It’s our home.”

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

TAKE ACTION

  • Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry here.
  • Report a call to the FTC here.
  • Fill out a Telemarketing Complaint Form here.
  • Learn more about call filtering apps and services available for download here.

FURTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

The Office of the Attorney General recommends:

  1. Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry.
  2. Download call-blocking apps for your cell phone and check with your telecom company for services for your landline.
  3. If you don’t know who is calling, don’t answer.
  4. If you receive a robocall, hang up. Don’t engage. The less you interact, the better.
  5. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact the attorney general’s Office of Consumer Protection. You can file a scam report online.

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