DOJ Sues Telecommunications Operators Over Robocalls

TCPA Connect

Jumping on the enforcement bandwagon, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed its first actions against telecommunications operators for facilitating illegal robocalls. Both complaints seek temporary restraining orders as well as permanent injunctions.

In a pair of complaints—one filed in Arizona federal court and a second in New York—the DOJ named a total of five corporate entities and three individuals that are allegedly responsible for “hundreds of millions” of robocalls each month.

The Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers acted as “gateway carriers” that facilitated the delivery of the robocalls from foreign call centers and foreign VoIP carriers to the U.S. telecommunications system, and ultimately to phones throughout the United States, according to the complaints.

Through the robocalls, overseas fraudsters spoof legitimate phone numbers for robocalls that purport to be from federal government agencies, elements of foreign governments and legitimate businesses, often conveying alarming messages such as that the recipient’s Social Security number or other personal information has been compromised, the recipient faces imminent arrest or the recipient’s assets are being frozen.

When consumers answer the calls or return messages, the fraudster then offers to “resolve” the problems following an immediate transfer of funds. The defendants also provided fraudulent return-calling services to the fraudsters used to establish contact with potential victims.

The defendants are paid for each call they pass into and through the U.S. telephone system, according to the complaints, and have profited by regularly transmitting “massive” volumes of robocalls. Over just 19 days in May and June 2019, one of the defendants routed more than 7.7 million calls, the DOJ said.

To read the DOJ’s complaints, click here.

Why it matters: The lawsuits are a first for the DOJ, having never taken action against telecommunications companies over robocalls before, and demonstrate the continued heightened regulatory oversight of robocalls, following efforts by the Federal Trade Commission and the recently enacted Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act.

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