In what must feel like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole for those chasing down dodgy robocall operators, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said on Wednesday it had recently forced the closure of four separate operations responsible for bombarding people across the United States with billions of illegal calls.
The annoying calls pitched auto warranties, debt-relief services, home security systems, and fake charities. One Florida-based operation even pretended to represent Google and made false threats to remove businesses from the web giant’s search results, according to the FTC.
The companies forced to close have been hit with fines of between $540,000 and $3.64 million, the FTC said in a statement. All have agreed to settle the commission’s charges and are now banned from robocalling and “most” telemarketing activities.
NetDotSolutions, one of the companies targeted by the FTC, is alleged to have facilitated “billions of illegal robocalls to consumers nationwide, pitching everything from auto warranties to home security systems and supposed debt-relief services.”
Higher Goals Marketing, another of those involved, reportedly tried to sell fake debt-relief services. “The defendants guaranteed they could substantially and permanently lower consumers’ credit card interest rates, and would save consumers thousands of dollars in interest payments. In reality, the scheme was rarely, if ever, able to deliver the promised results,” the FTC said.
A particularly abhorrent con was set up by a company calling itself Veterans of America. It’s alleged to have used fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to persuade people to donate cars, boats, “and other things of value,” but the person running the operation simply sold all of the donated items for his own benefit.
Finally, Pointbreak Media reportedly made the false claim that it was representing Google, promising businesses an array of bogus services that included improved placements in search results. In one racket noted by the FTC, the company’s telemarketers told some call recipients that the only way to stay on Google’s search engine was by sending a one-time payment of between $300 and $700.
Commenting on the action, Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said: “We have brought dozens of cases targeting illegal robocalls, and fighting unwanted calls remains one of our highest priorities.”
While everyone plagued by robocalls will welcome the closure of these four operators, there’s still much work to be done by the FTC if it’s to have any discernible impact on the nuisance calls. Recent data suggests robocalls mushroomed in 2018 with an estimated 47.8 billion made in the U.S. alone, marking a 56 percent increase over 2017. Around 40 percent of the calls are thought to be scams.
Want to learn more? Digital Trends offers up some tips on how best to deal with robocalls and how to avoid getting scammed.