FTC and FCC Send Written Warnings to Cease Transmission of Spam Robocalls, State AG's Issue List of Demands
On May 20th, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission issued letters to several telecom providers suspected of transmitting COVID-19-related spam robocalls into the United States to cut off the traffic or face serious consequences. The letters gave the recipients 48 hours in which to cut off the robocalls or risk having all their calls blocked for the foreseeable future.
The letters are further evidence of increasing regulatory pressure being placed on carriers (which were previously expected to connect all calls) to constantly monitor all traffic on their networks to protect US consumers. The scam robocall campaigns routed to American consumers through these companies include:
Fake COVID-19 Refunds: RSCom of Knoxville, Tennessee and Aurora, Ontario was accused of allowing the following COVID-19 related refund scam calls into the country from the United Kingdom: “We cannot provide services due to COVID-19 but you have been charged $399. Press 1 to claim a refund.”
Social Security Administration COVID Scam: PTGi Carrier Services of Washington, DC was deemed responsible for transmitting robocalls from Germany with the following content: “This is a call from [the] Social Security Administration; during this difficult time of coronavirus, we have to suspend your SS account.”
Loan Interest Rate Reduction Scams: Intelepeer of San Mateo, California was accused of facilitating robocall traffic from overseas that announced: “Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, you may be entitled to no payments on your mortgage, credit card debt or medical bills”; “Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, you may be entitled to no payments on your student loans”; and “Due to the lockdown, we are helping people to pay with 0% interest rates.”
In addition to the FTC and FCC, attorneys general from all 50 states have recently called upon the Broadband Association US Telecom to take further actions to trace back and combat illegal robocalls. The AG's demanded that US Telecom's Industry Traceback Group take the following steps to further their goal of combatting unwanted and illegal robocalls:
- Utilize a wider variety of call data sources to both diversify and aggregate as much pertinent robocall data as possible;
- Analyze such data to identify past, current, and future illegal robocall campaigns and trends and to better understand the interconnected ecosystem of businesses facilitating illegal robo callers;
- Automate traceback investigations and increasing the total volume of such investigations;
- Alert relevant law enforcement agencies, including state attorneys general, of suspected illegal robocall campaigns with sufficient information to trigger investigations;
- Enable law enforcement agencies to upload and receive responses to subpoenas and civil investigative demands electronically;
- Provide swift and comprehensive compliance with such subpoenas and civil investigative demands electronically; and
- Identify non-cooperative voice service providers (VSPs), such as (a) VSPs that do not participate in the traceback process, (b) VSPs that repeatedly originate or accept illegal robocalls, (c) VSPs that are regularly the domestic point of entry for illegal robocalls originating outside the U.S., and (d) VSPs that are repeatedly incapable of providing sufficient records.
The Attorney General noted that “given the exponential growth of illegal robocalls targeting the American public" they plan to continue intensifying their enforcement efforts against illegal robo callers and other related bad actors.