A nation plagued by robocalls is getting some relief. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just took a major step toward stopping the hundreds of millions of robocalls Americans get each month.
In what's dubbed Operation Call it Quits, the FTC has joined forces once again with federal, state and local law enforcement to shut down operations that make scam robocalls. This latest shutdown is in addition to the four telemarketers the FTC shut down in March.
Robocalls from scammers and legitimate companies have risen to 5 billion per month in the U.S.
Operation Call it Quits successfully targeted four more operations. We'll show you how the sting worked and other ways phone companies, Congress and government regulators are battling robocalls. Komando.com will also provide you with ways to protect yourself from robocalls.
FTC shuts down illegal robocall operations
Through Operation Call it Quits, the FTC and law enforcement agencies across the country brought 94 legal actions against four scam operations that collectively are responsible for 1 billion robocalls. The scammers pitched a variety of products and services such as credit card interest rate reductions, money-making opportunities and medical alert systems.
One company is accused of calling one number more than 1,000 times in a single year. Today’s announcement brings the number of cases the FTC has brought against illegal robocallers and Do Not Call violators to 145 under Operation Call it Quits.
"We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year," stated Andrew Smith, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release. "Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation."
The FTC was joined by 25 federal, state and local agencies, which filed 87 legal actions against robocallers. Attorneys general from Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania were among the states involved in the sting. Several counties in California also were part of the operation.
"Every year, our office gets more consumer complaints about unwanted robocalls than just about any other issue,” stated Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill in the FTC press release. “At worst, they represent scams that successfully steal people’s identities or hard-earned money. In Indiana, we are quite serious about stopping illegal robocalls, and our alliances with such partners as the FTC will prove a valuable asset in this mission."
The illegal robocallers operated under the names First Choice Horizon, 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle and Media Mix 365. One individual, Derek Jason Bartoli, allegedly provided services in his own name and in the names of Phoenix Innovative Solutions, Marketing Consultation Solutions and KimRain Marketing.
Congress, FCC take action
Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved giving landline and mobile phone carriers the right to block robocalls through their devices. For consumers, this means mobile phone companies can install whatever tools they need in cell phones to block these annoying and unwanted calls.
Some carriers, such as T-Mobile and Verizon, already offer consumers free partial protection against robocallers. The FCC vote also clarified whether consumers have to give permission first before robocalls can be blocked by mobile carriers. The FCC action answered the question of whether mobile phone companies are liable if they block a call that had to go through.
The FCC ruled that consumers do not have to grant such permission, but can opt out of call blocking if they want. Carriers already have or are working on tools to block calls from scammers. Some are free and others cost extra. The FCC ruling did not mandate that carriers offer call-blocking services for free or make the service a default option on phones.
Efforts to stop robocalls have reached Capitol Hill as well.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that Tufts Medical Center in Boston received 4,500 robocalls between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on April 30. The onslaught of robocalls to medical treatment centers could prove deadly to patients. Meanwhile, doctors are concerned because patients are not answering their calls if they don't recognize the number.
The robocall storm at Tufts, along with general concern over robocalls' effects on health care, prompted one lawmaker to call on Congress to take swift action. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is working on the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act.
Earlier this week, the proposed legislation was moved forward by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill would direct the FCC to require that phone carriers use technology to prevent spoofing.
The Senate passed similar legislation in May. Both bills would make the FCC require carriers to provide caller ID filtering. Going a step further, the House bill mandates that phone carriers offer call blockers at no additional cost to consumers.
Protecting yourself from robocalls
Komando.com has been covering this robocall epidemic, especially as scammers tactics have become more sophisticated. As part of our coverage, Komando.com has also tested the effectiveness of the Robokiller app, available for both iPhone and Android.
We've also put together this list of tips you can use to block robocalls:
- Reject anonymous calls automatically
- Join the National Do Not Call Registry list
- Set your phone on do not disturb
- Use carrier tools to block unwanted calls
- Use the best apps to block robocalls
- Block individual phone numbers
- Some phones block robocalls automatically
Robocall revenge: How some consumers are fighting back (and you can too)
Despite how pervasive robocalls are, there's no reason to let the scammers continue harassing people. Ordinary consumers are starting to fight back against unwanted robocallers -- and some of them are even hacking the scammers themselves! What's more, some big-name tech companies are joining the fight against robocalls to help even the playing field once and for all.