The Federal Trade Commission announced it has launched Operation Stop Spam Calls in hopes of eliminating illegal telemarketing, including robocalls.
The federal government said it is partnering with the attorneys general of all 50 states by taking action against 180 different groups. The FTC said that actions are not just targeting telemarketers but also the lead generators "who deceptively collect and provide consumers' telephone numbers to robocallers and others, falsely representing that these consumers have consented to receive calls."
"Today, government agencies at all levels are united in fighting the scourge of illegal telemarketing. We are taking action against those who trick people into phony consent to receive these calls and those who make it easy and cheap to place these calls," said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC and its law enforcement partners will not rest in the fight against illegal telemarketing."
Among the actions are five new cases filed by the FTC in federal courts.
In one case against Fluent, LLC, the FTC accused the company of tricking consumers into consenting to receive solicitations including calls. Then, the FTC said the company lured consumers to its websites "using deceptive ads that falsely promise employment opportunities or free valuable items, such as a job interview with UPS or a $1,000 Walmart gift card."
The FTC said Fluent obtained and sold more than 620 million telemarketing leads in 2018 and 2019.
In another case, the FTC is accusing Yodel Technologies, LLC of initiating 1.4 billion calls using "soundboard technology." More than 500 million of the calls went to those on the Do Not Call registry, the FTC alleged. The calls were for services such as auto insurance, cruises, medical devices, extended auto warranties, and supposed assistance with Social Security benefits, the FTC said.
"Soundboard technology allows call center agents to play prerecorded audio clips in response to specific consumer statements or questions, making them sound more authentic than traditional robocalls," the FTC said.
The cases will go before a federal judge, who will decide whether the companies should pay a fine.
Officials throughout the U.S. are encouraging consumers to report instances of illegal calls.
"Our collective efforts – from this sweep to the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force and beyond – help us to expand our playbook, allowing us to outwit and defeat these perpetrators in their own arena," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. "Our secret weapon is consumers – whom we urge to continue reporting illicit robocalls, so we can sever these unwanted illegal robocallers' connection once and for all."
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