FTC goes after dialing platform in latest crackdown on illegal robocalls

Posted at 6:26 PM, Jun 06, 2018

The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against the illegal robocall business.

A recent lawsuit alleges some kingpins made billions of calls to consumers on the Do Not Call registry using spoofed numbers.

A spokesperson with the FTC said this is one of the first times they've gone after the dialing platform versus just the telemarketers.

The case is meant to send a strong message that they're not backing down. Even so, robocalls increased 20 percent in the last month.

RELATED: Apps that will finally silence scam robocalls

YouMail CEO Alex Quilici likens the increase to people answering their phones less.

“Imagine you're a pharmacy and you want to call somebody to get insurance approval for their prescription. You used to just call one time, they'd pick it up, it's all good. Now, you might call you don't get through, you went to voicemail, they don't call you back, you call again, you go to voicemail and the process just repeats and so the mere fact that we're getting so many robocalls is actually bizarrely enough leading to even more robocalls,” Quilici said.

It’s an unintended consequence of consumers becoming more aware, now their phones are ringing even more.

“It's probably going to get worse before it gets better, but the more consumers play their part by getting robocall apps and not answering calls and doing their homework before calling numbers back, the less impact it's going to have on everyone,” said Quilici.
The FTC wants consumers to know they're doing their part. They recently filed a complaint in federal district court against call centers and TelWeb, who they refer to as “the one-stop-shop for illegal telemarketers.”

Over the course of five months, the telemarketing platform reportedly made 54 million spoofed calls and averaged around 883 million a year.

“If we can make it very costly for them to initiate these calls to scam people, we'll see the numbers come down,” said Patrick Webre, chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

But enforcement alone doesn't seem to be enough. The actors named in the lawsuit are known to the FTC and FCC and have been accused of doing this before, even fined several million dollars in the past.

“I think some of the robocallers think the fines are merely a cost of doing business. I mean, they're dialing millions of numbers because it's making them money, the fines mean they make a little bit less money,” Quilici said.

Enforcement isn't the FTC’s only tool. They’re working with the FCC to educate consumers and collaborating with tech companies to improve robocall blocking and filtering technologies.

There’s also been a push for phone companies to implement authenticated caller ID technology, which stops call spoofing.