Government / Politics

Robocalls spoof Hollister mayor’s personal phone number

Ignacio Velazquez says he plans to report the calls to authorities, including the FBI.

Hollister residents (including this BenitoLink reporter) received a second round of robocalls attacking Mayor Ignacio Velazquez on Oct. 9. Velazquez is running for reelection on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The calls repeated the same message as the first round on Oct. 1. A major difference this time, however, was that Velazquez’s personal phone number had been spoofed, with his name appearing as the caller.

“They violated federal law by doing this,” Velazquez said. “You cannot call cellphones with robocalls.”

After the first round of robocalls earlier this month, contender Sal Mora denied any involvement. And though Velazquez cannot prove who is behind the calls, he suspects a group of locals. He said this time he will report the calls to authorities, including the San Benito County Elections Office, Hollister Police Department, Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the FBI. He said now that he knows they broke federal law there will be an investigation.

“My attorney told me to start with the FPPC to get the process rolling,” he said. “Then I’ll call the FBI.”

In January, President Donald Trump signed a new law aimed at tackling illegal robocalls by expanding the powers of the FCC to deter them and reinforce the responsibilities of individual phone companies to protect their customers. The FCC requires a caller to obtain written consent from each person called before they can make a telemarketing call to a home landline or cellphone. Except for emergencies, the agency also requires written or verbal permission to make autodialed robocalls or texts to cell numbers.

There are exceptions, though, including calls from market research or polling companies to home numbers; calls on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit groups; informational calls, such as from airlines and doctors; debt collectors; and even political calls.

Illegal calls can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at donotcall.gov. The FTC analyzes complaint data and trends to identify illegal callers based on calling patterns.

According to the FTC, it takes the phone numbers and releases them to the public each business day. This helps phone carriers and other partners that are working on call-blocking solutions.

As with some robocalls, spoofing can be legal at times, but it is most often associated with scams, according to the FCC. As with after the first robocall, when BenitoLink called the number back, a recording stated that the call could not be completed.

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]