Officials target telecom companies

By Katie Ritchie

 

Spam phone calls and Do Not Call List registrations hit records last year. Safehome.org, an organization that investigates and evaluates home and personal safety products and technologies, recently analyzed the FTC’s 2019 data. South Carolina Do Not Call registrations are 47th in the nation. Our FTC complaints were up 74% over 2018.

In 2019 5,422,298 Americans complained to the FTC, up 50%.

The good news is that at the end of January 2020, the FTC and Justice Department took action. Illegal robocalls and scammers often have internationally-based call centers and servers. In January the FTC sent 19 letters to domestic Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. The FTC warned them “assisting and facilitating” illegal telemarketers and robocalling is illegal.

The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith said “these warning letters put VoIP providers on notice that we will take action when they knowingly facilitate illegal robocalls.”

In January the Justice Department obtained court orders restraining 2 groups of companies. The companies in New York and Arizona are allegedly facilitating fraudulent robocalls. The court orders require them to stop letting fraudulent calls go through or face penalties.

What’s in it for the domestic phone providers? They make money by charging fractions of a cent for each call. Prosecutors claim one of the Ariz. companies facilitated 720 million calls in 23 days. Profits add up fast.

The inspector general of the Social Security Administration, Gail Ennis, said “No matter how many calls we stop, there will likely be more.”

The court orders did not include criminal charges against the telecommunications firms. The authorities said their focus was on curbing the calls.