Federal Trade Commission Announces Shutdown of Groups Responsible for “Billions” of Robocalls
COMMACK – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced this week that they have officially shut down four groups responsible for “billions” of illegal robocalls that have been plaguing U.S. residents, with an agreement put in place that will see the groups in question putting a stop to their use of automatic dialers, in addition to paying millions of dollars in fines.
Robocalls have become a major nuisance in recent years, with American consumers reporting in 2018 to have received over 26 billion of the annoying automated contacts; this represents a whopping increase of 46 percent from the amount of calls reported in 2017, reports say.
Higher Goals Marketing, Veterans of America, Pointbreak Media, and NetDotSolutions are the four groups that have reached settlement agreements with the FTC. NetDotSolutions was responsible for over a billion calls per year, FTC officials said, and Pointbreak Media had been previously accused of falsely claiming to represent Google, issuing threats via robocalls to remove business listings from the search engine’s results unless they were paid fees as high as $700. In addition, the FTC said that Higher Goals Marketing offered debt-relief services that failed to live up to the results that were promised, and that Veterans of America sold items such as cars and boats donated in good faith via a fraudulent charity, after which they pocketed the proceeds.
All four groups have also been collectively hit with fines totally in the millions of dollars, although many of the fines have the potential to be reduced if the groups agree to submit partial payments – and, in the case of Veterans of America, forfeit its ill-gotten goods and property – within a set period of time.
Robocalls remain a major nuisance to many Americans, with legislation considered to be behind the curve of technology and struggling to catch up. Do not call lists have been available for many years, but the lists have proven to be largely ineffective and legally problematic in some cases. Consequently, a market has developed for products that allow consumers to block robocalls, especially in the form of smartphone apps as well as products developed for use with landlines. In addition, many laws and regulations are currently in the works, both on local and federal levels, which will hopefully address this issue and greatly reduce its occurrence.
Robocalls even more unfortunately even more effective recently by a process known as “spoofing,” a technology that allows robocallers to forge caller Caller ID information and present false names and phone numbers. Since spoofed calls can originate from other countries, the laws in the receiver’s country may not apply to the caller. This limits the effectiveness of laws against the use of spoofed caller ID information, and is clearly yet another hurdle for the FTC and lawmakers to have to contend with. And even if a company identified as an illegal robocaller is shut down through legal means, experts say, several more are ready and waiting to pop up and take their place, leading to a never-ending loop with the consumer coming out on the losing end.