FTC, Justice Dept. takes coordinated action against robocallers

Federal authorities have announced its latest crackdown on illegal robocallers — taking close to a hundred actions against several companies and individuals blamed for the recent barrage of spam calls.

In the so-called “Operation Call It Quits,” the Federal Trade Commission brought four cases — two filed on its behalf by the Justice Department — and three settlements in cases said to be responsible for making more than a billion illegal robocalls.

Several state and local authorities also brought actions as part of the operation, officials said.

Each year, billions of automatically dialed or spoofed phone calls trick millions into picking up the phone. An annoyance at least, at worse it tricks unsuspecting victims into turning over cash or buying fake or misleading products. So far, the FTC has fined companies more than $200 million but only collected less than 0.01% of the fines because of the agency’s limited enforcement powers.

In this new wave of action, the FTC said it will send a strong signal to the robocalling industry.

Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Americans are “fed up” with the billions of robocalls received every year. “Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation,” he said.

It’s the second time the FTC has acted in as many months. In May, the agency also took action against four companies accused of making “billions” of robocalls.

The FTC said its latest action brings the number of robocall violators up to 145.

Several of the cases involved shuttering operations that offer consumers “bogus” credit card interest rate reduction services, which the FTC said specifically targeted seniors. Other cases involved the use of illegal robocalls to promote money-making schemes.

Another cases included actions against Lifewatch, a company pitching medical alert systems, which the FTC contended uses spoofed caller ID information to trick victims into picking up the phone. The company settled for $25.3 million. Meanwhile, Redwood Scientific settled for $18.2 million, suspended due to the inability for defendant Danielle Cadiz to pay, for “deceptively” marketing dentistry products, according to the FTC’s complaint.

The robocalling epidemic has caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecoms and internet industries. Last month, its commissioners proposed a new rule that would make it easier for carriers to block robocalls.

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