A34 US NEWS India Abroad May 2, 2014
An anti-spoofing bill introduced by United States Representative Grace Meng (Democrat-Queens,
New York), last December has yet to
pass the committee stage.
Representatives Joe Barton (
Repub-lican-Texas) and Leonard Lance
(Republican-New Jersey), the co-spon-sors of the bill, said it would reduce the
number of fraudulent phone calls and
texts that millions of Americans constantly receive.
“We are aware of the fake calls and
how it impacts the community. The legislation will help protect the people,” a
spokesperson for Meng, said.
The scheme consists of fake names
and phone numbers being displayed on
recipients’ caller IDs in order to trick
them into answering the phone or
replying to text messages.
The practice, known as ‘spoofing,’ is
widely used by scammers and
They use technology to disguise their
numbers and identities to make their
calls appear legitimate. Deceitful telemarketers employ the practice to dishonestly sell their merchandise, and
fraudsters use it to obtain personal or
financial information by misrepresenting themselves as, among other things,
government agencies, hospitals, banks,
pharmacies and credit card companies.
In 2009 the Truth in Caller ID Act,
which prohibits caller ID spoofing
when it is used to defraud people, was
passed. But spoofing technology has
evolved since the law was enacted, and
criminals have found ways to circum-
The legislation titled the Anti-Spoofing Act, would improve the Truth
in Caller ID Act by broadening the law
to prohibit spoofing by callers outside
the US; broadening the law to include
new Internet-based Voice over
Internet Protocol services which
enable callers to make outgoing-only
calls from computers and tablets to
mobile and landline phones; requiring
that legitimate spoofing providers adequately inform users of all applicable
laws and broadening the law to include
The community in Illinois has scheduled a rally in Carbondale seeking justice for Southern Illinois University student Pravin Varughese, 19, who was
found dead February 18.
A memorandum signed by thousands of people, seeking an
impartial investigation into the death will be presented to the
civic and police officials after a rally
The cause of Pravin’s death was determined as hypothermia. The police
allegedly did not inquire into the reasons that led to the situation and credible answers were not provided, the
family, and an action committee said.
The Jackson County Coroner’s office
conducted an autopsy and toxicology
examination of the body. The coroner
indicated that the blood report was
negative for drugs or alcohol. This finding was also corroborated by an independent autopsy and toxicology examination.
“We were sure that Pravin would not
have used drugs,” his mother Lovely
Varughese said. The family’s belief was
vindicated by the toxicology report. She
said there were wounds on his face and
“Though more than two months have
passed, we are not able to accept that
Pravin is dead. We go to bed thinking
that he is in the next room. When we get up, the reality comes
back to haunt us,” Lovely Varughese said.
As legal counsel for Pravin’s family, Jimmy Vachachira, a
partner at Abraham & Sweeney, LLP, has made informational requests to Carbondale offices involved in the investigation,
including using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The City of Carbondale, however, continues to withhold
information, citing the ‘Pending law enforcement proceedings’ exception.
‘It is frustrating being kept in the dark due to the pending
investigation. We believe we may have insight to offer if only
we had a fuller picture. If the toxicology tells us anything, it is
that Pravin’s death is not as easily explainable as the authori-
ties originally assumed,’ Vachachira said in a statement.
This, in part, is what prompted the Varughese family to conduct its own investigation, which is currently ongoing.
His parents have retained local counsel, Charles Stegmeyer.
Pravin, whose family lives in Morton Grove, Chicago, was a
student of criminology and criminal justice and aspired to
become a law enforcement officer.
He went missing after a party at a home off campus at
around 11 pm February 12. Almost a
week after his disappearance, his body
was found in a wooded area in the 1400
block of East Main Street, not very far
from the townhouse where he lived.
What happened to Pravin on the
night of his disappearance is not fully
He accepted a ride from a recent
acquaintance just before midnight.
The police said he left the vehicle after
a dispute with the driver, who was also
a young man.
‘ The difficult terrain and low temperatures are believed to have contributed
to Pravin’s difficulty finding his way out
of the wooded area. No foul play is suspected at this time,’ a police statement
said soon after the body was found.
A day before the body was found, the
person who gave him the ride contacted the police. The unnamed driver told
the officer that he had dropped Pravin
in the woods. Since there were no negative reports about the driver, he was
let go by the officer.
There was no documentation of it by the officer, reports
After he left the party Pravin tweeted at around 11:17 pm,
‘Bloody knuckles . . . guess I was in a fight #backdown.’
At around 12:30 am, he called a friend in Chicago. She said
it sounded like he was running and arguing with someone.
But what he said wasn’t really clear to her.
The family has set up a memorial fund and Web site
www.justiceforpravin.org to assist people in similar circumstances and to get through difficult times and further investigate the circumstances that led to Pravin’s disappearance and
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has come out with an advisory to protect students from getting
harassed by private lenders.
“The vast majority of private student loans
today have a co-signer (typically a parent or a
grandparent). Having a co-signer can often
lead to a lower interest rate, which can save
you money in the long-term, because the co-signer will have to repay the loan if you don’t,”
Rohit Chopra, student-loan ombudsman,
“However, your loan might also contain
provisions that allow your student loan ser-
vicer to put you in default — even if you’ve
been making your payments on time. That’s
because your co-signer is also on the hook for
your loan and therefore changes in their
behavior can impact your loan, causing your
loan to default and making your entire bal-
ance due all at once.”
He added that the bureau had received sev-
eral complaints that private student loan ser-
vicers were placing borrowers into default
when their co-signer died or filed for bank-
The CFPB has estimated that the combined
total for federal and private outstanding student loan debt reached nearly $1.2 trillion in
Private student loans account for $150 billion of the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.
“If you are a co-signer or have a student
loan with a co-signer and you are in repay-
ment, you should look into what’s called ‘co-
signer release,” Chopra advised. “You should
consider this option to avoid a surprise
default. Both the borrower and co-signer can
benefit from obtaining the release.”
He added that private student loans can
take many years to pay off, and parents or
grandparents may be unaware that their own
financial distress or death can lead to a sud-
Many lenders advertise that a co-signer
may be released from a private student loan
after a certain number of consecutive, timely
payments and a credit check to determine if
the borrower is eligible to repay the loan on
“Unfortunately, many student loan servicers do not tell you when you are eligible to
have your co-signer released, so you need to
ask them how to do this. To help you get
started, we’ve put together sample letters you
can edit and send to your student loan servicer,” Chopra added.
To ease the burden on borrowers, the CFPB
recommended that lenders consider alternatives to these defaults, like giving the borrower the chance to find another co-signer.
The bureau issued a set of sample letters
that consumers could use to petition lenders
to release a co-signer from the contract.
For more information see: www.co
Applying for a student’s
loan? Read provisions
Family seeks answers on
Pravin Varughese’s death
Anti-spoofing bill still to pass committee stage