You might have noticed that there’s been a lot of talk about robocalls lately: companies like Apple and Google partnered up in trying to help the users avoid them, carriers are trying to pass new regulations that will block them by default and hospitals have reported robocall spamming that completely blocked their lines for extended periods of time.
Most of the times, the robocalls are nothing but a nuisance but sometimes they can end turn out to be scams that steal not only people’s money but also their identities.
Following numerous complains and issues encountered through the years thanks to robocalls, the Federal Trade Commission and its law enforcement partners have finally stepped up to the challenge and unveiled a new initiative that aims to combat these calls.
“We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,“Andrew Smith, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection has said in a press briefing. “Today’s joint effort shows that combating this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”
They dubbed it “Operation Call It Quits” and it has already filed 94 actions against the organizations who are responsible for them. The operation also saw the re-opening of four new legal cases and three new settlements. Altogether, the cases the FTC has gathered against robocallers amount to 145.
“Nearly all robocalls are illegal unless you’ve given consent in writing”
The FTC has charged robocall rings like First Choice Horizon LLC, which uses the calls to contact consumers who find themselves in financial distress, usually seniors who are not aware of these sort of scams even exist, and offer them fake credit card interest rate reduction services. Companies like 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle, have also used the robocalls for fraud.
According to Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, around $10.5 billion was lost to phone scams just in 2017 alone, in the United States. Hill mentioned that the actual numbers are probably much higher because the elderly don’t usually report these calls.
Texas is the state that’s seen most of that loss, since it’s a border state – a lot of IRS scams happen there and they usually go after people who are only just paying their taxes for the first time or don’t do it at all. With a high number of retirees, Texas nails both the desired audiences the people behind the robocalls are going after.
The FTC hopes that the Congress will allow it a wider jurisdiction over telecommunication carriers, which will in turn, help them trace the calls back to their source and put names and faces to the people who operate the scams.