The robocalls suck. They cost us money and time and are so common that the vast majority of Americans don’t even answer their phones unless they know who’s calling. Everyone knows this is a problem, but no one seems to be able to do anything about it. This may change.
The FCC announced Thursday it is ordering phone companies to block call traffic that the agency says is part of a massive auto warranty operation that has resulted in 8 billion illegal automated calls since 2018.
Or, as FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworsell put it: “Billions of automatic warranty calls from a single phone campaign. Billions!
The FCC has been trying for years to stop or at least mitigate illegal robocalls, but has seen their numbers increase along with consumer annoyance. But it looks like those efforts are finally bearing fruit. The agency is not only trying to stop robocall campaigns, but is also targeting and prosecuting companies that promote them.
“We are not going to tolerate robo call scammers or those who help make their scam possible. Consumers have run out of patience and I’m right there with them,” Rosenworsel added in an order statement made last Thursday.
According to the FCC, the order applies to eight companies whose systems were the source of these calls. In other words, the scammers bought access to our phones through these service providers. So not only is the FCC campaigning for robocalls, but the phone companies that used to make all those calls are also being penalized, and other ISPs are being warned not to accept robocall traffic. This should presumably mean fewer robocalls overall.
All this is part of a larger repression. In order to deceive victims and hide from the authorities, illegal robocall networks typically buy huge blocks of legitimate phone numbers from voice service providers who are happy to look the other way as long as they are paid and there are no repercussions.
But earlier this month, the FCC and the Ohio Attorney General said they had identified and taken action against several individuals they claimed were behind the robocolling operation that was responsible for some of these infamous auto warranty claims. The FCC also sent cease and desist letters to eight voice service providers that it believes were making robocalls. The agency has been able to determine who these vendors are through some industry-wide measures taken over the past few years.
“I would say this is a significant development as it shows the FCC expects the industry to work together to stop unwanted automated calls,” said Jim Tyrrell, senior director of product marketing at TNS, which offers identification and mitigation services. consequences of automatic calls. “The FCC takes this threat very seriously and wants to enforce a lockdown on these entities,”
Tyrrell said the FCC had already issued similar cease-and-desist letters, but all the companies to which they were sent responded to the letters, and no further action was needed. Eight providers — Call Pipe, Fugle Telecom, Geist Telecom, Global Lynks, Mobi Telecom, SipKonnect, South Dakota Telecom and Virtual Telecom — were able to respond to emails. But in this case, none of the ISPs responded, allowing the FCC to order all telephone companies to block outgoing calls from them. Needless to say, a telephone company whose calls are not accepted by any other provider is no longer a telephone company.
“This is the first such order,” FCC spokesman Will Wyquist told Recode. “We believe this is an effective job, made possible by improved traceability through the widespread adoption of STIR/SHAKEN, productive partnerships with other investigators such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and a strong push from Chairman Rosenworsel to take proactive steps using all our tools for real consumer protection.”
Providers that do not take reasonable steps to stop calls from these eight companies are at risk of getting themselves into trouble.
“The hidden threat is that if the FCC finds that an ISP is allowing this traffic to continue, the FCC will take action against it,” Tyrrell said.
This could be the kind of threat the industry needs to make a real effort to stop the call-to-consumer plague. Last year, the FCC began requiring ISPs to implement STIR/SHAKEN, a framework that allows calls to be traced back to their ISPs. This was not an instant solution as smaller providers were given extra time to implement it. By this point, however, that extra time had expired, and the ability to track calls helped investigators trace robocalls to those eight providers, according to the FCC.
The FCC is also consistently issuing and proposing record fines for other robocall-related transactions. The number of automated calls seems to be on the decline, which is good news. However, the number of robotic texts has increased. A lot of. This suggests that the scammers may just be moving on to a new way to annoy and deceive us.
On the other hand, the threat of robocalls may still be too great to stop anytime soon. Two of the people accused of being involved in this latest operation, Roy Cox Jr. and Aaron Michael Jones, had previously gotten into trouble with robocalls, and as a result, the Federal Trade Commission (both the FCC and the FCC ) permanently banned them from telemarketing. The FTC may be looking into robocalls.) If the agency’s latest assertions are correct, these bans haven’t discouraged them much, and it won’t be hard for them to start up again if they can find more suppliers.
“The problem is, with so many smaller VoIP providers, the attackers are just passing their traffic from one provider to another,” Tyrrell said. “It’s like hitting the mole.
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