Record $300M FTC fine hits robocalling operators

The Federal Communications Commission (FTC) hit scammers with a massive fine, claiming that it was trying to hit the largest illegal robocall operation ever investigated.

The FTCs nearly $300 million fine targets an international network of companies that made a staggering five billion robocalls to over half a billion phone numbers over three years in 2021. On average, scammers made a seemingly impossible 600 calls every second for a whole quarter of the year.

The penalized multinational business operated under several names, including Sumco Panama, Virtual Telecom, Davis Telecom, Geist Telecom, Fugle Telecom, Tech Direct, Mobi Telecom, and Posting Express.

The enterprise violated numerous prohibitions, the FTC claims, adding that scammers made pre-recorded voice calls to mobile phones without their consent, callers failed to identify themselves at the start of the call, and did not provide a call-back number.

“The calls also violated spoofing laws by using misleading caller ID to disguise the enterprise’s role and prompt consumers to answer,” the FTC said.

According to the Commission, robocallers were bent on selling vehicle contracts under false claims of selling warranties. The scheme was supposedly complex and large scale, targeting victims since at least 2018.

“Last year, to stop this then-ongoing telemarketing campaign in its tracks, the FCC directed all US-based voice service providers to cease carrying traffic associated with certain members of the enterprise. As a result, these illegal auto warranty robocalls dropped by 99%,” the FTC said.

The use of robocalling allows criminals to target millions of victims by using artificial intelligence and automation. Even if a few calls are successful, criminals see substantial financial gains.

The volume of robocalling is immense, with billions of robocalls made monthly in the US alone. Losses from robocalling are sky-high, with 2022 estimates at $65 billion lost in scams, according to robocall security firm Robokiller.

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