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robocalls

The Lege versus scam callers

I appreciate the effort, but it’s highly unlikely to make any difference.

Rep. Ben Leman

The Texas House gave an initial stamp of approval Wednesday to a bill that aims to prohibit telemarketers or businesses from falsifying their phone numbers.

The measure, House Bill 1992, would prohibit caller ID spoofing — when a caller tampers with information transmitted to people’s caller IDs to disguise their identity.

Under the proposal by Republican state Rep. Ben Leman of Anderson, telemarketers using a third-party source to make calls to the public must ensure the number that appears on people’s caller ID matches the number of the third party, or the number of the entity that has contracted with the third party.

“House Bill 1992 aims to prevent telemarketers from using predatory and annoying tactics by prohibiting them from replicating numbers and misrepresenting the origin of the call,” Leman told other representatives Wednesday.

The measure needs one more vote from the House before it can head to the Senate.

Federal law already mandates that telemarketers must transmit a telephone number and, when possible, a name that matches the telemarketer or business on caller ID. A spokesman from Leman’s office said the bill clarifies that the Texas attorney general may prosecute telemarketing companies that display misleading information on caller ID.

This story is from last week – sorry, sometimes I like a story but wind up prioritizing other stories – and HB1992 has since passed both chambers and is enrolled. I’m fine with passing this law, but there’s a zero percent chance it will make any difference. There just won’t be anyone for the AG to sue. Basically, we are with robocalls and spoofed caller ID now where we were with email spam ten or fifteen years ago. At some point, defensive technology will catch up and allow for better identification and redirection of junk calls. Until then, screen all the calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

Update on the nomination selection processes

vote-button

In six days, Democratic precinct chairs in County Commissioners Court Precinct 1 will select a nominee to replace the late El Franco Lee on the November ballot. In 11 days, all Democratic precinct chairs will select nominees for the 507th Family Court and the County Criminal Court at Law #16. This is a brief update on activity related to those races.

About a week ago, I received a letter addressed to precinct chairs concerning the 507th Family Court race. It was sent by fellow precinct chair Natalie Fairbanks and it enumerated the number of Harris County family court cases that each of the six known candidates had been involved in since 2008. I did a scan of the letter, which you can see here. A couple of days later, candidate Germaine Tanner sent an email to precinct chairs arguing that the data in the Fairbanks was inaccurate and incomplete, as all the attorneys in question have been practicing since well before 2008 and the count of cases did not include those “that were filed as post-divorce proceedings between the years 2008-2015, but with a case number that preceded the year 2008”. You can see this email here. Later that same day, candidate Julia Maldonado sent her own email pointing out that there are qualifications beyond number of cases worked, such as board certification, and that some attorneys handle cases outside of Harris County as well. You can see that email here.

As for the County Criminal Court at Law #16 race, the HCDP lists three candidates who have stated an interest in that nomination. Two of them have made themselves known to precinct chairs recently. David Singer, who up till recently was the only candidate I was aware of for this position, sent a letter to precinct chairs outlining his background and qualifications. I thought he had also sent that via email, but if so I can’t find it. This is the back side of his push card from the March primary for the 177th Criminal District Court, which is from an email he did send to precinct chairs in February. It’s a succinct summary of what was in the letter. Last week, I received an email from Darrell Jordan, who was a candidate for the 180th Criminal District Court in 2010. You can see that email here. The third candidate in this race is Raul Rodriguez, who had run for the 174th Criminal District Court this March and like Singer had been a candidate for one of the County Criminal Courts in 2014. I’ve not yet heard anything from him on this race. I do have Q&As from all three from past candidacies – Singer and Rodriguez for 2016, Jordan for 2010 – and will be revisiting those this week.

Finally, on the Commissioners Court race, candidate Georgia Provost made a pair of robocalls to precinct chairs this week. It was the first contact from a candidate not named Ellis, Locke, or Boykins that I received. And I have to say, of all the ways available to reach out to voters, I have no idea why she chose the robocall route. Robocalls have their place in the firmament – they’re a pretty efficient way of reminding people that there is an election in the first place – but given that nobody listens past the first five or ten seconds and you don’t know who actually picked up the phone, why would you do that for a more detailed sales pitch like this race? I mean, there’s 125 voters total for this race. At a very leisurely pace of five contacts per day, you could reach everyone in less than a month, and ensure that you personally get to talk to them. I can’t imagine a less effective strategy for a race like this than robocalls.

Finally, a few days ago I received a letter from Rep. Harold Dutton endorsing Gene Locke for the position. To the best of my admittedly spotty recollection, it’s the only letter I’ve received from an elected official endorsing someone other than Rodney Ellis. At the very least, it’s the only one I’ve received recently from an elected official.

Six days till we pick a Commissioner. Eleven days till we pick two judicial candidates. Hang in there, y’all.

Rideshare robocall lawsuit filed

This ought to be interesting.

Uber

Ride-hailing company Uber was hit with a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday over “robo-text messages” the company has been sending Austin customers seeking their support for a controversial referendum on the ballot Saturday.

The suit, filed in federal court, claims Uber violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending “thousands of unwanted text messages” to Uber users in the city without prior consent.

“Uber has violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act … by robo-texting thousands of unwanted text messages to the cell phones of thousands of Uber users in Austin, Texas – all without the prior express consent of those receiving Uber’s text messages – as part of a political campaign by Uber to oppose mandates from the City of Austin which impose various background check procedures for Uber drivers,” argues the lawsuit filed by Melissa Cubria in the U.S. District Court for the Western District.

[…]

On Wednesday, Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice, a group against the proposed ordinance, called for an investigation into the “questionable election activities” by Uber and Lyft.

“Uber and Lyft’s $8.8 million and growing in corporate spending as of Tuesday is a testament to how far these corporations are willing to go to rule Austin and overturn Austin’s public safety rules,” said Laura Morrison, a former Austin City Council member, during a Wednesday press conference. “It is obscene to see unprecedented corporate millions poured into a political campaign in an attempt to deceive and manipulate the people of Austin.”

Austin political consultant Mark Littlefield also spoke at the conference on the ad campaign, pointing specifically to the frequent texts sent by both Uber and Lyft.

Cubria’s lawsuit contends that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act does not include restrictions on live, manual communications — only generated messages.

“It’s absurd to imagine that Uber paid individual, living persons to manually type and then manually send thousands (and perhaps tens of thousands) of individual text messages in support of a political campaign underway in Austin, Texas,” the lawsuit reads.

I’ve seen some screenshots of these texts from folks on Facebook. Maybe some were sent by actual people and not an automated process, but who knows? I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.

8 day finance reports: Controller candidates

How about a look at the 8 day finance reports for Controller candidates? I figure if you’re reading this blog you won’t look at me funny when I say things like that, so here we go:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Brown        46,375    151,848     30,000    12,067
Frazer       58,953    146,767     32,500    38,072
Khan         44,965    351,902    215,000    32,986
Robinson      6,375          0          0     1,151

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Brown             99,600         34,600
Frazer            76,500         53,000
Khan             307,500         24,000

BagOfMoney

A few comments:

– Neither Dwight Jefferson nor Jew Don Boney have 8 day reports, or for that matter 30 day reports. I have no idea why this is the case. Carroll Robinson’s 8 day report does not list a total for expenses, and it has no itemization of contributions or expenses; there’s basically nothing after the initial cover page.

– Bill Frazer had $16,450 in in-kind contributions listed as “pro-rata share of mailer”, from the C Club and Houston Realty Business Coalition. $69,215 of his expenses were from personal funds, including $50,250 for advertising, $7,490 for “GOTV mailout printing”, and $9,747 for postage.

– 22 off MJ Khan’s 44 contributors gave non-Houston addresses. I think I’ve seen his circa-2009 ad and Chris Brown’s “high school swim team” ad more than any Mayoral candidate’s ads except for maybe Costello. Khan also spent $825 on Facebook ads, because why not?

I have not had the time or energy to do the same scrutiny on Council reports, but this Chron story provides a few highlights.

1. At-large 1: Candidates competing to replace term-limited Stephen Costello, who is running for mayor, dropped nearly $299,00 during the past month. The biggest spender was Tom McCasland, former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, whose political action committee dropped nearly $155,000. Mike Knox, who has positioned himself as the conservative candidate, spent $57,000 and Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, spent $44,000.

2. At-large 4: In another competitive at-large race, seven candidates combined spent $252,000. Amanda Edwards, a municipal finance lawyer, has significantly outpaced competitors in spending, dropping $208,000.

4. At-large 2: Incumbent David Robinson and four contenders spent a combined $147,000. Challenger Eric Dick, a lawyer and former mayoral candidate, shelled out the most, spending almost $75,000. Robinson spent more than $47,000.

Since they didn’t go into it, I will note that in At Large #3, CM Kubosh spent about $28K, while Doug Peterson and John LaRue combined to spend about $12K; in At Large #5, CM Christie spent $60K, while Philippe Nassif spent $13K. I know I’ve received some mail from Amanda Edwards (and also received a mailer yesterday from Chris Brown), as well as two robocalls from Eric Dick and – this is the strangest thing I’ve experienced this campaign – a robocall from “former Houston Rocket Robert Reid on behalf of [his] good friend Griff Griffin”. Who knew Griff even did campaigning? Not that this appeared anywhere on his finance report, as either an expense or an in-kind donation, of course. Let’s not go overboard, you know. Anyway, if you look at the 2015 Election page, you will see that as with the Controllers, several At Large candidates have not filed 8 day reports. James Partsch-Galvan and Joe McElligott have filed no reports; Moe Rivera and Jonathan Hansen have not filed 30 Day or 8 Day reports; Jenifer Pool filed an 8 day but not a 30 day; and Larry Blackmon and Brad Batteau filed 30 day reports but not 8 day reports. It’s possible some of these may turn up later, so I’ll keep looking for them. I’m working on the district reports as well and will list them as I can.

Robocalls versus illegal street signs

I so love this.

The cheap signs smashed into lawns and along the corners of busy intersections are hard to miss. “We Buy Junk Cars!” ”Cash for Your House!” ”Computer Repair.” The eyesores have vexed Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober for the past few years as he wastes valuable resources plucking up the signs only to watch them pop up in even greater numbers.

While stopped at a red light a few months ago, Bober studied the unsightly signs and came to a realization that would help him fight their proliferation: The criminals had left their calling cards in the form of business phone numbers.

“These people want us to call them, so let’s call them so much their head spins,” said Bober, who bought a $300 software program in March that makes robocalls to the businesses. The volume of calls has reached as high as 20 calls each to 90 businesses in a day.

The signs are eye-catching and cheap, and businesses place them mostly along the sidewalks and medians of high-traffic intersections where there are no homeowners to complain. Companies can blanket an area with signs for a few hundred dollars and have been emboldened to continue because there have been virtually no consequences.

To city officials, the signs are costly litter that require city workers to pick them up. Posting them is also a crime, a relatively minor offense that carries fines of up to $250 in Hollywood.

Officials in Hollywood had struggled with how to discipline the companies because they are sometimes based in another state where they don’t have jurisdiction.

That’s Hollywood, FL, by the way, not California. Apparently, the Mayor’s crusade against this visual blight has been successful: The robocalls have led to a 90% reduction in the number of signs on the streets. The robocalls leave pre-recorded messages – in this case, announcing that the signs are illegal and that the calls will continue until someone comes down to city hall and pays a fine for them. Only seven such companies have actually done that, so I presume the others have stopped putting more signs out, which seems to me to be enough of a win to make this worthwhile. Some other Florida cities have tried this as well. I’m thinking Houston might want to take a look and see if it might be worth the effort.

One more thing:

South of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale officials are also struggling with signs that littered a busy intersection advertising child support reductions and credit repairs, including a sign from Caravan Credit Services.

But company officials said they didn’t order the sign spam.

“It must have been an old sign. We stopped doing that,” said Ross Linthicum, executive vice president of the Houston-based company. “A couple of salesmen took it upon themselves to do that. … You do get people that still go out there and do it, but it’s in our paperwork not to do it.”

Mm hmm. This is what’s now known in the industry as the Eric Dick defense. It wasn’t me that put up those signs, it was my overzealous supporters who did this entirely on their own without my knowledge or consent. Blame them, not me.

White condemns anti-Green robocalls

I’ve heard from numerous people, including several in the comments here, who have received a nasty anti-Ronald Green robocall in the past week or so; at this point, I believe there are at least two variants on the call. It has no identifying information associated with it, which makes it illegal, but also basically untraceable as well. Anyway, one of the recipients of this call was Mayor Bill White, who wrote on his Facebook page to condemn it. From an email sent out by the Ronald Green campaign:

Yesterday Houston Mayor Bill White condemned anonymous phone calls attacking Ronald Green, candidate for Houston City Controller. Green, a three-term At-Large City Council Member, is running for an open seat to succeed the current Controller, who is term-limited.

Mayor White said the following via Facebook: “At home I just got a recorded call urging Democrats to vote against Ron Green for City Controller because he would hurt D’s. Who paid for this? …it does seem to me that if another candidate or party paid for it, they should say so upfront.”

Over the past several days, some Houstonians have reported receiving multiple anonymous automated phone calls attacking Ronald Green, and urging a vote against him. The announcer in the calls does not identify himself, there is no callback number given, nor is there a disclaimer identifying who paid for the call, which is required by law.

“I join Mayor White in condemning these anonymous false attacks,” Green said. “These calls are illegal and have no place in our political discourse. It is disappointing that my Republican opponents have stooped to such tactics. I am going to keep talking about the issues that matter to Houstonians – weathering this economic downturn and securing the City’s long-term financial health.”

While City races are officially non-partisan, Ronald Green is the lone Democrat running against two Republican opponents.

Since the calls purport to come from “Democratic leaders” and address the recipients as “fellow Democrats”, the HCDP has responded as well:

It has been reported to the Harris County Democratic Party that someone is making anonymous telephone phone calls claiming that certain unnamed “Democratic leaders” have some reservations about Ronald Green as a candidate for City of Houston Comptroller. These illegal calls are not coming from the Harris County Democratic Party and do not reflect the position of the Harris County Democratic Party, or its chair.

On the contrary, while the Harris County Democratic Party is officially “neutral” in the non-partisan City of Houston elections (unless and until a run-off election emerges), we can inform the public that Ronald Green is the only candidate in the Comptroller’s race who has a Democratic voting history (Ron has a strong one) and Ronald Green has long been a Sustaining Member of the Harris County Democratic Party and consistent supporter of Democratic causes. The chair of the Harris County Democratic Party regards him as highly qualified to be Houston’s City Comptroller.

The Harris County Democratic Party and its leaders would not stoop to making anonymous telephone smears against any candidate – let alone one as competent, capable, and loyal to the Democratic Party as Ronald Green.

I hope these messages get out to those who may have been taken in by these calls. Green has certainly provided some fodder for his opponents, and I have no problem with them jumping on it. This is different. I have no idea who’s doing these robocalls, but I consider it to be sleazy and cowardly, no matter who it is. Have the guts to sign your name to your work – which, I remind you, is the law for stuff like this – or go crawl back under your rock.

UPDATE: Just got a robocall from Gerry Birnberg reiterating this message.

Spending on voter outreach: The Controller candidates

We know that this has been, relatively speaking, a low-dollar, low-profile election. I’ve been curious as to what the candidates’ strategies for doing voter outreach have been. We’ll probably know more when we see the eight-days-out reports, but for now, I’ve been looking through the various campaign finance reports to see what spending they have reported so far on various communication methods. Here’s a look at what the candidates for Controller have been doing.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== MJ Khan 3,716.81 Printing, postage, bumper stickers MJ Khan 12,592.56 Printing of signs MJ Khan 4,486.85 Printing of signs and stickers MJ Khan 944.48 Printing of T-shirts MJ Khan 22,469.00 Polling services

The “Amount” and “Purpose” are taken directly from the reports. I’ve listed anything that seems oriented towards getting the “Vote for Me!” message out, excluding basic things like website maintenance and email services. Nobody in this race has skimped on yard signs. I’m glad to see that someone is polling citywide. I’d kill to see the questions and answers Khan got. Word I’ve heard is that Khan will be running ads on cable, which he should be able to afford. I’ll be interested in seeing that as well.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Pam Holm 2,730.61 Yard signs Pam Holm 1,358.27 T-shirts Pam Holm 1,547.34 Mailing/printing Pam Holm 2,600.00 Signs Pam Holm 477.38 Koozies Pam Holm 2,520.33 Signs Pam Holm 8,358.00 Advertising (Stan and Lou Advertising) Pam Holm 2,774.85 Automated phone calls Pam Holm 662.06 Radio production costs Pam Holm 2,380.73 Signs Pam Holm 2,900.00 Door hangers (*) Pam Holm 26,367.15 Direct mail Pam Holm 1,487.00 Automated phone calls Pam Holm 10,000.00 Radio ads

Holm is the big spender here, which is no surprise. I saw two $2900 entries for door hangers, one of which listed the recipient and one which didn’t; I don’t know if this was a duplicate entry or not. We’ll know in about three weeks how much Holm spent on her TV ad. Oh, and I totally want a “Pam Holm for Controller” koozie. Surely someone with the campaign can set me up.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Ronald Green 1,930.91 Printing Ronald Green 753.79 Printing Ronald Green 1,107.72 Printing Ronald Green 1,091.71 Printing Ronald Green 275.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Ronald Green 1,930.91 Printing Ronald Green 343.15 Printing Ronald Green 866.00 Printing Ronald Green 100.00 Advertising (St Peter The Apostle Catholic Church) Ronald Green 197.29 Printing Ronald Green 622.98 Printing Ronald Green 161.89 Advertising (Facebook) Ronald Green 200.66 Printing Ronald Green 411.97 Printing

He may not be able to afford radio or TV, but Ronald Green has the Facebook market locked up. That’s actually a pretty decent investment if you don’t have that much money to spend. I have no idea what all those printing costs are for – my guess is the ones in four figures are yard signs, but I’m not sure about the others. Who knew that churches took advertising?

Next up, the At Large Council races.

Election tidbits for 9/29

Meet Dallas DA Craig Watkins’ Republican opponent. I thought he came across better than the commenters did, but I feel pretty good about Watkins’ chances nonetheless. Via Grits.

Some love for Bill White, including the Bill Whites for Bill White ActBlue page.

Hank Gilbert speaks to WFAA in Dallas.

Get ready for Teabagging II: Electric Boogaloo.

Martha, John, and Stace comment on the Gene Locke robocalls, in particular the one from County Clerk Beverly Kaufmann.

Rick Perry claims his website was hacked. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Don Large, the now-former campaign manager for Council candidate Carlos Obando, informed me today that he is filing paperwork to run for Harris County Republican Party Chair. He’ll be the third challenger to current Chair Jared Woodfill.

Election tidbits for 9/22

More stuff that’s worth a mention.

– The deadline to register to vote in the 2009 election is Monday, October 5. Towards that end, Texans Together will be holding a voter registration drive this Saturday, September 26, at various locations around the city. If you want to participate, please contact Dee at 281-702-7864 or e mail [email protected]

– HISD District I candidate Alma Lara has a new website.

– City Controller candidate Pam Holm has been making robocalls. Personally, I’d advise sending mail now (if you can afford it, which she ought to be able to do), and saving the robocalls for the GOTV effort later. But then no one asked me.

– Along those lines, Peter Brown is making robocalls as well. I know this because there was a voice mail of such a call on my work number this morning. I don’t know how that number got onto anyone’s list. Maybe they were just dialing every number in town.

– Not at all campaign related, but my neighbor Mark Strawn, who was badly injured in a car accident two years ago, has been making huge strides in his physical therapy. His wife Sabrina recently sent out an email asking for support for SIRE, Houston’s therapeutic equestrian center, which has so helped Mark in his recovery. I’ve reproduced the email beneath the fold, and you can click here when you’re done reading it to give them a hand.

Purple Texas writes about Hank Gilbert and his nascent campaign for Governor. Maybe it’s just the city boy in me, but I can’t say I’ve ever felt a longing for a liberal-disguised-as-a-redneck to save us all. Which isn’t to say that Hank couldn’t win next year with that formula. It’s just that I’d support him in spite of his rural roots, not because of them.

– District G candidate Richard Sedita sent out a press release in support of the current efforts to build a stadium east of downtown for the Houston Dynamo.

– The Texas Tribune invites you to take a look inside their office:

– I cannot begin to express how little sympathy I have for poor widdle Rick Perry and that dirty trick that that mean old Senator Hutchison pulled on him. Karma is a remarkable thing, isn’t it?

UPDATE: Phillip says what needs to be said regarding Rick Perry and this incident.

(more…)

Meet the robocallers

I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate the auto warranty robocallers any more than I already do, but apparently it is.

[C]ourt documents filed this month in a Federal Trade Commission case against a Florida company — Transcontinental Warranty — provide what authorities say is a look inside a telemarketing operation that used widespread recorded calls and misrepresentations in selling its product.

A declaration from a former employee describes how he was supposed to go through hundreds of calls in a shift, trying to sell auto service warranties, which the FTC said typically cost $2,000 to $3,000, without giving up too much information about the company, especially if consumers became combative or suspicious.

“Transcontinental’s company motto was ‘Hang up. Next,’ ” said Mark Israel, who worked the evening shift with about 30 other operators at company headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Essentially, this meant that if the consumer did not readily go along with the scripted telemarketing pitch, I should immediately hang up.”

[…]

Israel, who did not respond to requests for an interview, worked for the company only four days before quitting and contacting the FTC.

His description of the calls mirrored those of people nationwide, the FTC said, who complained to government agencies and consumer organizations. The FTC said some Transcontinental calls went to numbers registered on the national Do Not Call list. But all recorded sales calls are illegal with the exception of those that go to people with whom there’s an established business relationship.

But it was difficult for consumers to report a company if it couldn’t get its name. “I understood it to be an acceptable practice at Transcontinental to say whatever was necessary to get the consumer to divulge his or her credit card number,” Israel said in the court documents.

Some people have left comments on previous posts about these jerks saying they’d managed to hang on the line long enough to get to a person and get that person to take them off their call list, at least for awhile. I never bothered with that – I always hung up as soon as I recognized the call, if I was unfortunate enough to answer it in the first place. I think that was for the better, all things considered. And I must say, I haven’t received one of these calls in a few days now (knock wood), so maybe the feds are having an effect, One can only hope.

Injunction issued against auto warranty robocallers

Yes! Yes, yes, yes!

A federal judge has issued two temporary restraining orders designed to stop what officials describe as a wave of deceptive “robo-calls” warning people their auto warranties are expiring and offering to sell them new service plans.

[…]

The FTC filed suit against two companies and their executives on Thursday, asking a federal court in Chicago to halt a wave of as many as 1 billion automated, random, prerecorded calls and freeze the assets of the companies.

Officials say the calls have targeted consumers regardless of whether they have warranties or even own cars and ignore the Do Not Call registry. They say telemarketers have misrepresented service agreements consumers have to buy for warranties that come with the price of the car.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. had asked for an FTC investigation into what he described as the scam of “robo-dialer harassment.”

“These calls are annoying, but worse, many Americans have been fleeced,” he said.

U.S. District Judge John F. Grady issued the temporary restraining order against Transcontinental Warranty Inc. on Thursday and Voice Touch Inc. on Friday.

Grady’s orders also applied to Transcontinental CEO and President Christopher Cowart, Voice Touch executives James and Maureen Dunne, Voice Touch business partner Network Foundations LLC and Network Foundations executive Damian Kohlfeld.

[…]

Besides ordering a halt to the automatic telephone sales calls, Grady’s order froze the assets of the two companies. The FTC alleged in its complaints that the calls were part of a deceptive scheme and asked the court to assure the assets will not be lost in case they might be needed to repay consumers who have been victimized.

The temporary restraining orders are to remain in effect until May 29, when Grady scheduled a hearing on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction.

Halle-freaking-lujah. May this put these bastards out of business once and for all.

The FTC isn’t immediately seeking civil fines against the companies but may do so later, agency officials said.

I still think public execution would be a just outcome, but I’ll take what I can get. Thanks to Kevin Drum for the pointer.

Die, car warranty phone spammers! Die, die, die!

OK, maybe that’s a tad bit harsh, but if this leads somewhere I do hope that public execution will be on the table.

Unsolicited calls to home and cell phones warning of a final notice and an expiring vehicle warranty are a nuisance and harassment and should be the subject of a federal investigation, a U.S. senator said Sunday.

More and more Americans are receiving calls with a computerized voice saying, “This is the final notice. The factory warranty on your vehicle is about to expire,” or something similar, several times a day on their cell or land lines. The calls come even if a person has signed up for the national “do not call” registry.

Now, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York wants a federal investigation into the “robo-dialer harassment.”

“Not only are these calls a nuisance, but they tie up land lines and can eat up a user’s cell phone minutes, possibly leading to a higher cell phone bill due to overage charges,” said Schumer, D-N.Y.

Meanwhile, officials in 40 states are investigating the companies behind the car-warranty calls.

I have gotten these calls on every phone I have, including my business line and my work BlackBerry, whose phone number I’ve never given out. They come in on all different numbers, so you can’t even effectively block them. Apparently, these calls are used to sell extended auto warranties, which themselves are largely a ripoff. Why anyone would respond to this kind of sales pitch is beyond me, but then there are people in this world that buy pharmaceuticals via unsolicited emails, so I guess it takes all kinds.

Missouri authorities filed a lawsuit last month against one of the largest car-warranty companies, Wentzville, Mo.-based USfidelis, charging that company officials ignored a subpoena demanding that they answer questions about their business.

A spokeswoman for USfidelis, which has more than 1,000 employees, did not return a call seeking comment Sunday, but the company says on its Web site that it stopped making unsolicited marketing calls last year.

“Frankly, we’ve identified more effective ways of connecting with our customers,” the Web site’s “Frequently Asked Questions” section says.

Frankly, I’d think that sneaking up behind your customers and tasering them would be a more effective and less annoying way of connecting with them, but maybe that’s just me. Go get ’em, Chuck.