Florida AG and FTC Obtain $23 Million Judgment in Robocall Enforcement Action

December 20, 2018

On December 14, the Florida Attorney General (AG) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announceda $23 million federal district court judgment against the owner of an Orlando-based “robocall” operation.  The massive robocall operation tricked consumers into paying upfront fees of $500 to $1500 for false credit card interest-rate-reduction and debt-elimination services, allegedly causing $23 million in consumer harm.

The settlement follows litigation filed in June 2016 alleging that the owner and 19 other defendants operated an illegal robocall scheme in violation of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 53(b), the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a), and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 6101-6108.  The Orlando federal district court judge temporarily enjoined the operation in 2016.  Settlements with the remaining 19 defendants are pending court approval…

July 5, 2019

The Federal Trade Commission announced last week a crackdown on robocallers, giving one of the clearest pictures yet of the people and organizations behind the avalanche of nuisance phone calls to consumers.

The actions are important because they draw the connection between robocalls, which may seem like mere annoyances, to the fraudulent organizations or illegal mass-calling schemes behind them.

“We have a strong robocalling enforcement program, which is meant to protect wider consumers from abuse and abusive calls,” said Ian Barlow, program coordinator for the FTC’s Do Not Call program…

July 2, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) has released a Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on June 7, 2019 in an attempt to further protect consumers from illegal, including spoofed, robocalls. (Docket Nos. CG 17-59 and WC 17-97) The FCC clarifies that voice service providers may utilize “reasonable analytics” to identify and block robocalls on a default basis. At the same time, the FCC is proposing to adopt a rule mandating the implementation (for those voice providers who have not already voluntarily done so) of the industry’s SHAKEN/STIR Caller ID authentication and protections for critical calls, including calls to Public Safety Answer Points (“PSAPs”)…

After Addressing Concerns from Stakeholders, FCC Adopts Revised Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice on Default Call Blocking

It’s been a busy month on the robocall front! Since our last monthly digest, the FCC circulated a draft and later adopted a final version of a Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing robocall blocking. In the Declaratory Ruling, the FCC clarified that voice service providers may offer default call blocking to their customers, so long as their customers are informed and have the opportunity to opt-out of the blocking…

Julianne Stafford, a special education teacher in Massachusetts, recently got a terrifying phone call: someone claiming to be a Social Security official said a number of bank accounts opened in her name in El Paso, Texas, had been linked to drug trafficking — and that Boston police had a warrant for her arrest.

The only way to clear her name, the caller said, was to pay — by buying two $500 Google Play gift cards and giving the activation codes over the phone…

The Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement plan to file charges against several companies and individuals as part of a major government clampdown on illegal robocalls

The mission, known as “Operation Call it Quits,” includes two FTC commissioners from the opposite ends of the political spectrum: Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, a Democrat, and Noah Phillips, a Republican.
 
The government says that there are tens of billions of robocalls made every year — and when it comes to those calls, Phillips said, there’s no political disagreement “whatsoever…”

Federal and state authorities on Tuesday announced that they had targeted dozens of robocallers accused of placing an estimated 1 billion spam calls to consumers, a crackdown they said should send a signal about the government’s heightened attention to Americans harmed by such scams.

Some of the robocallers sought to deceive people into paying fees or surrendering their personal information for fraudulent services, such as lowering their credit card interest rates or providing help with health insurance, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which worked alongside state attorneys general and other local law enforcement officials…

In the heart of Boston, Tufts Medical Center treats scores of health conditions, from administering measles vaccines for children to pioneering next-generation tools that can eradicate the rarest of cancers.

But doctors, administrators and other hospital staff struggled to contain a much different kind of epidemic one April morning last year: a wave of thousands of robocalls that spread, like a virus, from one phone line to the next, disrupting communications for hours to come.

For most Americans, such robocalls represent an unavoidable digital-age nuisance, resulting in constant interruptions targeting their phones each month. For hospitals, though, the spam calls amount to a literal life-or-death challenge, one that increasingly is threatening doctors and patients in a setting where every second can count.

Source: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/06/23/hospital-robocall-health-crisis/

Imagine this: During a major public health crisis, such as an outbreak – when doctors, administrators and health care field workers need to be in contact – a hospital’s phone system goes down, potentially putting lives at risk.

That’s a scenario that officials at Tufts Medical Center, located in Boston, as well as other health care facilities, are likely concerned about as they struggle with an inundation of robocalls.

The hospital, which is a center for biomedical research and the main teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine, received more than 4,500 robocalls in a two-hour period the morning of April 30, 2018, according to The Washington Post. The messages featured a voice speaking in Mandarin and threatened deportation if someone did not provide certain personal information…

In the heart of Boston, Tufts Medical Center treats scores of health conditions, administering measles vaccines for children and pioneering next-generation tools that can eradicate the rarest of cancers.

But doctors, administrators and other hospital staff struggled to contain a much different kind of epidemic one April morning last year: a wave of thousands of robocalls that spread like a virus from one phone line to the next, disrupting communications for hours…