In an unprecedented move, U.S. regulators firmly oppose the ceaseless annoyance caused by illegal robocalls and telemarketing calls. Named “Operation Stop Scam Calls,” this nationwide crackdown is a monumental effort led by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 101 other federal and state law enforcement authorities, including attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Their shared mission is clear: protect consumers from fraudulent and intrusive phone calls.
The initiative includes over 180 enforcement actions and initiatives, with the FTC announcing five formal actions on Tuesday. Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, emphasized the widespread displeasure caused by such calls, stating, “We don’t know too many people who enjoy scam calls. A single unwanted call is one too many.”
This sweeping operation targets not just telemarketers but also Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers facilitating robocalls, particularly those from outside the United States. By addressing the root cause of these unwanted calls, authorities aim to curtail incessant harassment faced by consumers daily.
Another focus of the crackdown is suppressing “lead generators” who deceive consumers into sharing personal information with promises of rewards or job opportunities, which is then sold to telemarketers. Authorities aim to end such malicious practices and protect consumers from scams.
Despite efforts like the National Do-Not-Call Registry established by the FTC in 2003, many victims still receive unsolicited calls. The registry currently holds 246.8 million active phone numbers as of September 30. Through Operation Stop Scam Calls, regulators strive to bolster the registry’s effectiveness and respect consumers’ privacy preferences.
One notable case in this operation involves Fluent, a New York-based company that agreed to a $2.5 million civil fine and a robocall ban. While the company denies wrongdoing, it aligns with the FTC’s concerns about robocall technology and telemarketing consent practices.
Additionally, three other defendant companies agreed to pay penalties totaling $15.7 million, with some adjustments due to financial constraints. Negotiations are ongoing with the fifth company.
Authorities want to emphasize that nobody is immune to the nuisance of robocalls. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, aptly compared robocallers to a “plague of locusts,” highlighting that even public officials like himself are not exempt from the relentless barrage of scam calls.
Q: What is “Operation Stop Scam Calls”?
A: It is a nationwide crackdown led by the FTC and other law enforcement authorities to halt unwanted and illegal robocalls and telemarketing calls.
Q: How many enforcement actions are part of the initiative?
A: The initiative includes more than 180 enforcement actions and initiatives, with the FTC announcing five formal actions.
Q: What does the crackdown target?
A: The crackdown targets telemarketers, Voice over Internet Protocol providers enabling robocalls, and “lead generators” tricking consumers into providing personal information.
Q: What is the purpose of “Operation Stop Scam Calls”?
A: The operation aims to protect consumers from fraudulent and intrusive phone calls, curtail harassment, and bolster the effectiveness of the National Do-Not-Call Registry.
Q: What penalties were imposed on companies involved in robocalls?
A: One notable case involved Fluent, which agreed to a $2.5 million civil fine and a robocall ban. Three other companies agreed to pay penalties totaling $15.7 million.
First reported on NBC News