US regulators want to fine operators of an allegedly massive robocall operation nearly $300 million that made more than 5 billion recorded calls over three months early last year.
Those five billion calls went to more than 500 million phone numbers between January and March 2021 in what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called the largest robocall operation it has ever investigated.
The program, which appears to be directed by Roy Cox Jr. and Michael Aaron Jones, has “made enough calls to have called every person in the United States 15 times in just those three months,” the FCC said in a statement.
The calls violated the FCC’s spoofing and robocalling laws, and the violations were so “egregious” that they “earned a significantly escalated proposed fine,” regulators said.
According to the FCC, companies under the Cox/Jones Enterprise umbrella made nearly 5.2 billion calls to more than 550 million mobile and personal phones in that three month period, using more than 1 million unique caller ID numbers. Consumers described the calls to the FCC as “incessant” and “harassment.”
It is alleged that the calls came from the duo’s company Sumco Panama and other US and foreign companies, including organizations in Panama and Hungary. The operation sent pre-recorded calls to consumers, urging them to speak to a “warranty specialist” about extending or reinstating their car’s warranty.
According to the company RoboKiller, which blocks Robocall, the calls would begin with variations of the line, “We’ve been trying to reach you regarding your car’s extended warranty.”
Cox and Jones are accused of violating several provisions of the anti-robocall and spoofing laws, including failing to obtain prior consent to make the calls, identifying the caller at the beginning of the message, and providing a callback number that gave it allows consumers to opt out of future calls. Also, many of the robocalls originated from dialing operations outside of the US, but used “neighboring spoofing” tactics to make the caller ID appear local, they say.
The calls also misrepresented their offer and made false or misleading statements to consumers. In addition, the companies that called Cox and Jones are said to have used particularly underhanded tactics.
“[They] called healthcare workers and spoofed hospital phone numbers during a pandemic, leading to confused consumers calling hospitals to complain — and deadlocking the phone lines of key public safety agencies,” the FCC wrote.
The agency said both men will be able to respond to the allegations before a final decision on penalties is made.
According to RoboKiller, auto warranty scams have long been among the most prevalent schemes in robocalls. The number of such automated calls to US consumers rose from 6.5 billion in 2020 to 13 billion a year later – accounting for 18 percent of all fraudulent calls in 2021 – to 5.7 billion in the first half of this year.
However, in July, the FCC issued its first-ever K4 notice and N2 order, directing all US-based voice service providers to stop transmitting traffic related to automatic guarantee fraud robocalls. In a report, RoboKiller said the FCC identified Cox and Jones as behind the majority of those calls and eight carriers that let the calls go unscreened.
As a result of the FCC’s actions, the number of such calls has fallen 99 percent since July, the agency said.
Regulators were familiar with both Cox and Jones. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned Cox from telemarketing after conducting a robocall operation that RoboKiller said involved credit card, car warranty and home security fraud. Jones was banned in 2017 after making hundreds of millions of calls to people on the Do Not Call registry. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/12/22/fcc_robocalls_fine/ FCC Demands $300M Fine for Massive Robocall Campaign • The Register