Got robot calls? FCC fines $225 million in Texas

When my phone rings these days, many of the callers come up as “Spam Risk” or “Telemarketer,” thanks to my cell provider. Other providers are also following suit. But, I’ve always wondered how those automatic phone calls that drive me nuts ever make any money. But apparently, they do – and a lot of it is based on fraudulent sales schemes. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) statistics indicate that just two of these companies in Texas were making billions of calls just in 2019.

The two telemarketing companies based in Texas, Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, were fined $225 million by the FCC on 3/17 for making these “robocalls” in 2019 selling fraudulent short-term health insurance. This fine is the largest in the history of the FCC.

This is just one step in the FCC ‘s plan to do away with these annoying calls.

A “Robocall Response Team” was also announced on 3/17, which consists of 51 FCC employees. Their purpose is to make sure this anti-automated call effort it efficiently coordinated. The FCC has also contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the attorneys general of most states for help with this endeavor.

According to USA Today, three out of four Americans said they were targeted by phone scammers over the past year. Some callers claimed to be with legitimate businesses, such as Amazon.

The article also claimed that folks who do fall for the scams lose $182 on average, with some people losing $500 or more.

The best way to avoid being victim to these buzzards are to just not answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number, as well as paying attention if your cell provider has automatic warnings such as “Spam Risk,” etc. Certain cell phone companies are even going further than the warnings, automatically sending callers that look suspicious or fraudulent straight to voicemail.

I’ve always wondered how these companies make so many calls with fake names and where they get the phone numbers to call, besides buying phone lists. Apparently there is something called “legacy technology,” which basically means that it is an old method or technology that is still in use, in the existing phone system that allows them to fake phone numbers on their end.

The most common scams, according to the FCC, are “IRS imposter calls, calls that pretend to be from Apple, false COVID-hardship programs, and fictional refunds from Amazon.”

The government has been combating this annoyance as well, passing the TRACED Act in December of 2019, which makes it possible to up the fines for a single robocall to $10,000.

Hopefully, these efforts by the “powers that be” plus us, as citizens ignoring unknown callers, will start the fade on this annoying, and sometimes costly, practice.

For an app that helps avoid the calls, check out Robokiller.

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