FTC launches crackdown on ‘tens of billions’ of robocalls made each year

  • Operation Call it Quits is being run by the FTC and its law enforcement partners
  • It includes 94 actions targeting operations around the country, and new advice for consumers
  • Hang up, block the call and report are key pieces of advice from the FTC

Robocalls have become one of the biggest annoyances for phone owners, with billions made each year.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today revealed a massive new campaign to try and crack down on the universally loathed telemarketing scams.

Recent years have seen them become more advanced, with scammers targeting a user’s calling code, and multiple languages being used.

The new “Operation Call it Quits” is being run by the FTC and its law enforcement partners.

It includes 94 actions targeting operations around the country, and new advice for consumers.

“We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”

“Operation Call it Quits” includes four new cases and three new settlements from the FTC, along with 87 enforcement actions from 25 federal, state and local agencies.

“Every year, our office gets more consumer complaints about unwanted robocalls than just about any other issue,” said Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.

“At best, these calls represent a nuisance for families just wanting to enjoy peace and privacy without needless disturbances interrupting their routines. At worst, they represent scams that successfully steal people’s identities or hard-earned money. In Indiana, we are quite serious about stopping illegal robocalls, and our alliances with such partners as the FTC will prove a valuable asset in this mission.”

Separately, a bill that would protect consumers from robocalls came closer to passage after a House subcommittee moved it forward with amendments addressing fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The bipartisan legislation Stopping Bad Robocalls Act advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s communications and technology subcommittee would allow the FCC to require phone carriers to use technology that would prevent the misleading modification of caller identification information, or spoofing.

What is a robocall?

Automated calls are responsible for more than one billion calls pitching a variety of products and services including credit card interest rate reduction services, money-making opportunities and medical alert systems.

“If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall,” the FTC says.

What can you do to stop robocalls?

Hanging up and blocking are the two pieces of advice from the FTC.

It’s also worth adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry here – although most scammers ignore this list.

The FCC also has this advice:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
  • You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed.  Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller — or a recording — asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.