back to article American robocallers to be shamed in public lists

US phone watchdog the FCC will publish a weekly updated list of annoying robocalling companies. The regulator's Consumer Help Center will reveal the telephone numbers of all robocaller operations, and organizations that flout do-not-call rules. The tables can be used by phone filtering software to block cold callers. The FCC …

  1. I'm Brian and so's my wife
    Mushroom

    Do it. Do it. Do it. For crying out loud, do it.

    Then set up the stocks in town squares across the country and provide rotten fruit & veg (obviously paid for by the offending/offensive companies).

    Then fine them out of existence and put the directors on a list barring them from any future directorships.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Don't do it. Don't waste time doing it. Just get on with prosecuting them.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Then can we hang them in the town square? Or is hanging too good for them? (as they used to say in the old cowboy movies).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Either that or tar and feather them.

  2. Lennart Sorensen

    Given most robocalls I get (in Canada) are from fake numbers, what use is a list of numbers?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Same here in the States. Seems they call you, roll your number as the caller for the next call. I really think the Telcos need a good lashing of fines also since it's VOIP and they have the logs and know who it is. Or at least where they're calling from.

      1. JustNiz

        I have no idea why telcos allow the user to override the caller ID. The Gov/FCC should make that illegal.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Given that many are operating from overseas given the thick Indian accents, I doubt much can be done by the FCC without Indian help.

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Not really. I believe the FCC has the power to block overseas telecoms as it wishes. A week of not being able to call to/from the US and they'd get their house in order.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              How when VOIP uses the Internet? They'll just route around any blocks and change their source UPS.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "The Gov/FCC should make that illegal."

          It IS illegal. Criminally so.

        3. Preston Munchensonton
          Boffin

          It's not about Caller ID override

          I have no idea why telcos allow the user to override the caller ID.

          This isn't the problem at all. In fact, the issue is that there's no caller ID to begin with, in most cases, because the call originates from a PBX or similar infrastructure, which sets the CLI for outbound calls (or should, anyway). It's not like the calls come from someone's cell phone. The average user doesn't have the functionality to override the CLI for calls, nor should they need it as the telco provides that functionality as part of the service.

          The robocallers rely on trunk lines, that aren't tied to a single number but have blocks of numbers available. If the telco was doing their job, they wouldn't permit any CLI transmitted but the assigned blocks of numbers (like an ISP filtering for IP address spoofing). That element, the telcos are at fault for. In the end, nothing will stop this until we get away from PSTN connections in general. Even with the CLI filters, the robocallers could rotate their assigned numbers as easily as buying another SIP trunk from one of a multitude of VoIP hosters.

          Frankly, the more one looks at it, it's almost identical to email spam in operational problems.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This would be even more useful if they'd post the names of the officers of these organizations.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      And the home phone numbers of those officers

  4. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge
    FAIL

    UK comparison

    In the UK our government does not want to spend money maintaining this aspect of law and order. So the job is passed to industry bodies, paid for by the culprits. So the UK equivalent of do-not-call, namely the telephone preference serivce, is just a joke.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: UK comparison

      The Telephone Preference Service is actually worse than useless. People who list themselves on the Telephone Preference Service receive more nuisance calls than people who aren't on it.

      It is run by the Direct Marketing Association. They send the list to any nuisance calling outfit that asks for it, and of course no one would even think of using it as a "please call me" list rather than a "do not call me" list.

  5. Number6

    Easy Parsing Please

    So if there's a new list each week, can we have it on a fixed URL with an easy way to parse the list for auto-inclusion into the database from a cron job. (Now why did my fingers type 'con job'?) I don't want an Excel spreadsheet or anything irritating like that, just a well-formatted text list (could be CSV, I guess) of number and company name. I don't think it's complex enough to warrant XML.

    By all means prosecute them, but don't forget the list - that way we can avoid being disturbed while the legal process grinds through.

    1. Number6

      Re: Easy Parsing Please

      Oh look, downvoted by someone in the robo-calling industry...

      1. I'm Brian and so's my wife

        Re: Easy Parsing Please

        Or by someone who hates CSVs?

    2. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Re: Easy Parsing Please

      Plenty of parsers in perl/python etc...

      Don't fret, if this list is any good it will be automated...

      P.

  6. Terry Cloth
    Coat

    ``Robocallers to be Shamed''

    What good will this do? Anyone who'd make robocalls has no shame, by definition.

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I have filled in report after report on the FCC web site detailing robo calls - the response is always the same ... sue 'em yourself.

    Basically I don't answer the phone anymore - robo callers are destroying the telephone as a medium.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Have an upvote. I'd give you more if I could. On one memorable occasion I received a call at 4 am in the morning here in Tasmania from some dude in the USA. "Why would I purchase anything from a criminal?" I asked. Caller said he wasn't a criminal, just doing his job. I listed his crimes:

      1. I'm on a do-not-call list

      2. He called on a Sunday

      3. He called before 9 am

      4. He called on a designated Public Holiday (ANZAC Day)

      Caller said Australian laws do not apply to Americans, so I said: "Great. I will tell that to the next American I murder. "One of your fellow citizens told me that Australian Law doesn't protect you!"

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Should told him he violated American law. In the US you can't call before 9am(that's 9am were the the recipient of the call is) and calling some tat is on the DNC list.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The response is always the same ... sue 'em yourself."

      You should, no matter what the FCC (or FTC, or state AG) do.

      You have the right to - and the death of 1 million papercuts is a greater threat than anything the FCC or other law enfircement authority can bring to bear. This is why "reputable" outfits stopped that kind of telemarketing when the TCPA was passed 25 years ago.

      Remember, the TCPA makes the caller _and_ the outfit hiring them jointly and severally liable and you have the right to file in local small claims even if Joe's widget company is across the country and hired Achmed's telemarketers in Bangalore. The fun part is that once you have the judgement against Joe (even by default) you can apply to get it enforced and this all adds to _his_ fees, not yours. If Joe has any sense he'll disclose who he paid, how much he paid and where he paid it to, so you can go after Achmed's US sockpuppets, else he can face contempt of court action.

      Joe's defense of "I got cold called and offered this fantastic marketing service" is _not_ a defence, as there is specific wording preventing ignorance of the marketer's activities being used this way.

      Robocalling (with a robot voice) or calling a number on a do-not-call list is an automatic wilful violation (ie. $1500 strike _each_ against Joe and Achmed) - and on top of that many states run their own prosecutions of do-not-call violators. (The FCC charges $11,000 per call when they weigh in, several states go for $50,000per violation(call) and they get aggressively pursued through state AGs and state courts, not as a civil agency seeking a settlement without admission of wrongdoing.)

      The single biggest problem with TCPA actions is hostile small claims courts judges refusing the cases or finding for the defendant (usually on the basis that finding for the plaintiff would be "harmful for local business"). In _every single case_ where that got appealed and kicked up the food chain, the judges higher up the chain have ruled that this itself is illegal and had extremely harsh words for the "judges" in question, forcing them to take the case back and deal with it as the law requires.

  8. Herby Silver badge

    Could be solved quite easily.

    We here in the USA (NANP) have special calling codes. An instance of this is "*69" which calls back the call you just got (I haven't needed to use it). What is needed is a nice simple code *xx that you dial after you hang up from a robo-call. When enough of these are accumulated and there isn't a "good reason" for the calls (which should be easy to determine), the offender gets hauled off to court and those who did the '*xx" get some $$$ for their trouble.

    It wouldn't take long for the robo-calls to come to a screeching halt. Yes, there might be some false positives, but you would need a whole bunch of them to start an action, and since the robo-callers do a whole bunch of them (that is how they work), so it should be pretty obvious!

    Then you squash them like a bug!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could be solved quite easily.

      Trouble is, as mentioned previously, many of these robo-callers are based out of the country (out of US jurisdiction), disguise their caller ID and attempt to hide their position from a legal call trace (possible with the help of a malicious telephone exchange), and/or use VoIP which lets them change their identity and route around any blocks.

      How do you deal with international robocallers who basically operate outside of the law?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Could be solved quite easily.

        "How do you deal with international robocallers who basically operate outside of the law?"

        Follow the money: You go after the people who hired the robocallers, who are invariably _inside_ the country.

        The TCPA makes them all jointly and fully liable for this reason. You can also order them to hand over details of who they paid, etc (also invariably inside the country) so that you can go after them too.

        The best part is that this is all in local (to you) small claims court, with fixed fees (which are added to the judgement), mandatory tripling for wilful violations (robocalls and breaching DNC lists) and the charges are PER CALL, which means if they call you 5 times, that's 5 lots of $500 statutory damages, tripled if wilful.

        There's a cottage industry around collecting TCPA damages and a lot of knowledge/assistance on the net about how to do it. If you're an american you'd be silly to pass up collecting $1500 (or $3000 if you can find both parties, or more if there's a liability chain) per call for 5 mins work filling in paperwork and a filing fee.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Could be solved quite easily.

        "How do you deal with international robocallers who basically operate outside of the law?"

        Your phone company knows where they got the call from so they can bill for it. They log the callback code against it and so on back up the line. If the callback reaches somebody who didn't keep track they become liable. PDQ they'll also be keeping track until it hits source.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Could be solved quite easily.

          Not if it's a malicious exchange that gets paid by the source to shunt these kinds of traces. They'll pay up because they're PAID to pay up.

          As for taking them on in court, they could cite the Interstate Commerce Clause (which the TCPA does not block) and have the case heard in federal court where the lawyers can come into play. Or they could just cut off their robocallers and claim they're lying and using their name to perform scam calls. Under the 6th Amendment, it's now up to you to prove they're lying.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Could be solved quite easily.

      "the offender gets hauled off to court and those who did the '*xx" get some $$$ for their trouble."

      I'd go one further. Everyone who made the callback gets a credit against their phone bill as a fee for answering the call.

  9. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Wait and see

    I vaguely remember reading something on El Reg about robocalls and legislation a couple of weeks (?) ago. There was a bit in it about senators/representatives using robocalls themselves in their re-election campaigns. Will they be on the shaming lists al well?

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Wait and see

      My own experience in British politics is that the parties do respect the do-not-call list. Otherwise it is a lost vote for every number they dial.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Wait and see

        "My own experience in British politics"

        Is not the way USA politics work.

        American law exempts robocalls for religious, political and charitable organisations.

        The ongoing and spreading abuse of those exemptions means they're likely to be withdrawn for the same reasons that the same exemptions in loudspeaker truck laws were withdrawn.

    2. jake Silver badge

      @allthecoolshortnamesweretaken (was:Re:Wait and see)

      "Will they be on the shaming lists al well?"

      No. Political, non-profit and religious fuckheads are exempt from the law.

      The mind absolutely boggles. Why the fuck do they think that annoying the ever-loving shit out of people will attract people to their shitty cause?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @allthecoolshortnamesweretaken (was:Re:Wait and see)

        The problem is that the Constitution recognizes political speech as the most important form of free speech you can have as these are the people who are campaigning to lead your cities, states, and the entire country sometimes. Therefore, in their logic, political speech has to be the most protected from any kind of restriction barring actual crimes like lying.

        The point can easily be argued, yes, but that's where it stands. It's like with the presumption of innocence: better to err in favor of freedom of information.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: @allthecoolshortnamesweretaken (was:Re:Wait and see)

          "The problem is that the Constitution recognizes political speech as the most important form of free speech"

          The odd thing about this is that the politicians don't see this as freedom to lose votes. Or maybe they run robocall campaigns impersonating their rivals?

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: @allthecoolshortnamesweretaken (was:Re:Wait and see)

        Why the fuck do they think that annoying the ever-loving shit out of people will attract people to their shitty cause?

        Because studies have shown that on average it does. Though people are annoyed by political robo-calls, more often than not they correlate with an overall improvement in polling results for the issues or politicians they promote.

        It's the usual result we see with advertising: the audience is momentarily annoyed, but there's a longer-term effect in favor of the product being advertised. Obviously it doesn't work on everyone, but if it works on more people than it alienates, there's some value in doing it.

        The simple fact is that most people don't have the inclination, training, or luxury of critical thinking; and even those who do can't maintain continual vigilance. The vast majority of decisions are made without conscious intervention, and even for those that are, it's generally not robust.

  10. Christoph Silver badge

    "The problem is that the Constitution recognizes political speech as the most important form of free speech you can have "

    "Public Service Announcement: The Right to Free Speech means the government can't arrest you for what you say.

    It doesn't mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it."

    "someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It doesn't mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it."

      Fine, then hang up the phone if you don't like it. If you don't want to be woke up by the phone in the middle of the night, turn off the ringer. But if someone has something to say that's not a lie or inciting violence, they're free to say it.

      1. 080

        "But if someone has something to say that's not a lie or inciting violence, they're free to say it."

        Sure, just not on my phone which I have to answer. How do you say "piss off" in the local language of the call centre?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "How do you say "piss off" in the local language of the call centre?"

          There is no such term or analogue in their language. It's considered taboo. So you lose.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      "Public Service Announcement: The Right to Free Speech means the government can't arrest you for what you say.

      It doesn't mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it."

      While I have great respect for Randall Munroe, and while his overall point here is correct, this is not an accurate gloss of the free-speech right as granted by the First Amendment. And your application of it to this particular issue (political robo-calls) is incorrect.

      The free-speech right, as construed by SCOTUS, enjoins the government from any prior restraint on expression except when it meets some rather specific tests. It goes far beyond "the government can't arrest you".

      In this particular case, it should be obvious that applying the Do Not Call Registry to political calls would be a prior restraint on political expression. For commercial calls, the FCC felt they could get away with prior restraint, on the grounds that such expression is less of a contribution to the union and the DNCR is voluntary on the part of the recipient. But a higher standard applies to political speech.

  11. Timo
    Terminator

    received a call from a political survey recently

    I received a robo-call from one of the political parties recently, and they had the nerve to ask me what was the biggest problem that was facing society right now (or what did I want said party to fix).

    I responded with "do something about unwanted phone calls, LIKE THIS ONE". He was annoyed at my answer, but I think he was bound to capture it as feedback (otherwise it would be sample tampering.)

    I have also been experiencing actual robo-calls with an interactive voice system behind it. The last one played back a sound clip that attempted to sound indignant when I called it a robot.

  12. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Simple(ish) solution

    Make this kind of law breach a statutory offence that pierces the company veil - in other words make the company's directors and investors _personally_ criminally liable for the activity.

    Corporations may be persons under USA law, but I've yet to see one put to death.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simple(ish) solution

      And if the corporate veil is a concrete wall because it's out of both country and jurisdiction?

  13. Mike VandeVelde
    Mushroom

    corporate death sentence

    "There's an almost an instantaneously favorable gut response from people when you explain that they can revoke a company's charter, distribute their assets and put them out of business,"

    http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/mm2002/02oct-nov/oct-nov02corp1.html

  14. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Learn some Indian swear words

    The ruder the better.

    Then tell the caller named John who has by some quirk of fate a heavy Indian accent what they can do with themselves in a language they understand (unless they are from the parts of India that speak say, Tamil).

    It gives me a lof ot satisfaction but it is small payback for them interrupting me.

    Any scammers out there please take note...

    I do not and will not ever buy anything from a cold call. If I want a service or to buy something I repeat I will make the first contact. So just go into a corner somewhere and slit your wrists. You may have more success at that than trying to flog me something but somehow I doubt it.

  15. Eponymous Cowherd

    Am I speaking to Mr E Cowherd?

    Is soon as I hear those words I do one of two things/

    If I'm busy, I just say "Fuck off" and hang up.

    If I'm not busy, and fancy a bit of entertainment, I string the bastard along for as long as I can manage (40 minutes, or so) then, finally tell him that I'm not interested and was just doing just that (winding him up ). That usually elicits some choice language, to which I reply "Fuck off" and hang up.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Am I speaking to Mr E Cowherd?

      I just mute the phone and set it down until the caller hangs up.1 I figure that for the few seconds while some poor minimum-wage2 bastard says "Hello? Hello?" into the air, that's one line (or operator, at least, in the case of VoIP) that's not bothering someone else.

      1Not for actual surveys. I participate in those, because I figure that if I occasionally pay attention to the results of such surveys, I ought to participate when asked to do so. It's not an ethical obligation, just a matter of courtesy.

      2If that. I've read that some of these outfits make use of prison labor, which in the US gets paid far below the Federal minimum wage. Angela Davis was so right. Of course.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pick up...

    ...listen for long pause OR 2-3 seconds of blurb...

    Hang up.

    Repeat.

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