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Reaching for the sky: FCC proposes record $300m fine against robocall campaign

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday proposed a record $300 million fine against an auto warranty robocall campaign that hounded millions of consumers back in 2021.

The scam campaign reached more than half a billion US phone numbers, with over six billion calls between January and March 2021. Now, the FCC wants two men who are accused of running this massive robocall scheme to pay up.

According to the FCC, California residents Roy Cox, Jr. and Michael Aaron Jones are behind the operation that lasted three months last year.

The calls that attempted to mislead people into thinking their auto warranties were expiring were conducted through their company, Sumco Panama, “as well as other domestic and foreign entities, and a host of international cohorts located in Panama and Hungary,” the FCC said.

“This scheme used pre-recorded voice calls to press consumers to speak to a ‘warranty specialist’ about extending or reinstating their car’s warranty,” the FCC added.

The agency noted that these robocalls – they’re also called automated spam calls – apparently violated federal anti-robocalling and spoofing laws. This means that the duo made it appear as though calls originate from a local number.

What’s more, the investigation found that the campaign harassed healthcare workers during the pandemic. In some cases, the phone numbers of actual hospitals were spoofed, and this resulted in consumers tying up the lines of hospitals with confusing complaints.

The FCC Enforcement Bureau’s investigation found that the Cox/Jones Enterprise apparently placed approximately 5,187,677,000 calls to 550,138,650 wireless and residential phones from January to March 2021, using 1,051,461 unique caller ID numbers.

That’s enough calls to have called each person in the United States 15 times during just those three months.

The Commission already took initial action against the operation by issuing the FCC’s first-ever “K4 Notice” and “N2 Order” – actions that directed all US-based voice service providers to cease carrying specified traffic related to the auto warranty scam robocalls.

Today, consequences await. The FCC said that the proposed fine was “the largest such action” in the agency’s history.

“We will be relentless in pursuing the groups behind these schemes by limiting their access to US communications networks and holding them to account for their conduct,” said the FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal.

The FCC has made cracking down on robocalls a top enforcement priority. Already in 2021, it announced a $10 million fine against Scott Rhodes for using “caller ID spoofing,” in which the origin of a call is manipulated to appear local.

The same year, the agency proposed a $225 million fine for a man accused of running a robocall operation selling short-term health insurance plans.

Cybernews listed several tips on how to spot a social engineering attempt, dangerous to your funds, data, or personal information.

It’s important not to answer calls from unknown numbers or give away personal data, even though it is advised not to trust caller ID either, as scammers can imitate someone from your contact list. Taking it slow is strongly recommended.

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