Feds crack down on robocallers from coast to coast | TribLIVE.com

Feds crack down on robocallers from coast to coast

Jacob Tierney

The Federal Trade Commission has stepped up its fight against robocalls.

The commission worked with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on “Operation Call it Quits” this week, charging three companies and one individual that are allegedly responsible for a combined 1 billion spam calls.

“We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” said Andrew Smith, director of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s joint effort shows that combating this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”

Among the cases:

• First Choice Horizon LLC, based in Florida, and a network of related companies allegedly made fraudulent robocalls selling a fake credit card interest rate reduction service.

• 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle, based in California, allegedly used robocalls, live calls, text messages, internet ads and more to peddle a fraudulent online “entrepreneur academy.”

• Derek Jason Bartoli of Florida allegedly helped telemarketing companies with robocall operations. According to the FTC, he developed and sold a computer-based telephone dialing platform capable of using fake or “spoofed” caller ID information to make millions of illegal robocalls to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call registry. In the last 6 months of 2017, Bartoli allegedly sent more than 57 million calls to numbers on the registry.

• Media Mix 365, also known as Solar Research Group and Solar Nation, allegedly called millions of numbers on the Do Not Call registry “annoying, abusing or harassing” consumers to sell products for home solar energy companies. In one case, the FTC said, the company called the same number more than 1,000 times in a year.

Robocall complaints have skyrocketed over the past few years. In 2012, the FTC received 3.2 million complaints nationwide, roughly half of them involving robocalls.

That number increased in 2017 to 7.2 million complaints, about two-thirds of which were for robocalls.

In 2018, Pennsylvanians filed almost 240,000 complaints with the FTC for telemarketers and scammers calling people on the Do Not Call Registry.

The Federal Communications Commission recently allowed companies to block unwanted calls by scam callers without first getting permission from customers, the Associated Press reported.

This could help reduce robocalls. Congress is considering additional measures to fight the problem.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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