back to article Hello, this is the FTC. You have been selected for a free lawsuit... Robocall pair sued

Amid a broad federal effort to be seen looking busy in the battle against robocalls, the US Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against two men and their respective companies for alleged involvement with billions of unlawful automated pitches. The complaint, filed on Thursday in the US District Court for Northern …

  1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    No fines collected?

    though collecting any money would

    If no fines are collected or no jail time then there's motivation for them to continue with their business.

    1. VanguardG

      Re: No fines collected?

      I think the inference there is that fines would be assessed, but never collected. All the companies involved go under the moment the process begins, then re-emerge a few months later with new names and resume business.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: No fines collected?

        Then, the directors, owners, etc. should be liable for the fines and the law should be amended to permit that. But this is 'Merica, the home of lobbyists and special interest groups so that will never happen.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: No fines collected?

          Fines are insufficient deterrent.

          I suggest keelhauling or immersion in honey followed by staking to the ground over an anthill.

          No one who has had to put up with these damned robocalls would call that cruel or unusual punishment.

          And, no, I do not want to lower the interest rate on my credit card, install solar panels, or send the IRS multiple Amazon gift cards, TYVM.

          // from my research I have discovered that Indian call centers are cheapest :-)

  2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    I hope telemarketers have learned a lesson

    Stay under the threshold of "billions of calls" so the FTC doesn't take action.

  3. Cyril

    Just post their pictures, numbers and addresses online. Many people who have been spammed by robocalls will find them and deal with it.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Many people who have been spammed by robocalls will find them and deal with it."

      All the really need to do is is what happened to Alan Ralsky when people discovered his home address.

      No violence necessary, or desireable - just a taste of his own medicine.

  4. g00se2
    WTF?

    <i>The software can also be programmed in "answering machine only" mode, so it leaves messages on answering machines but hangs up if a person answers.</i>

    Why would they want to avoid addressing the mark directly?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      >>Why would they want to avoid addressing the mark directly?<<

      Fewer complaints?

    2. VanguardG

      Then they don't need a link to a person from the computer. Mark calls back, calls the boiler room where the scammers are at work. But there's no "line" connecting the robocall to the boiler room scammer. The defense could claim "the phone number that my client left changed to the scam number without our knowledge"

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Why would they want to avoid addressing the mark directly?

      We hang up rather quickly. Most answering machines won't let you delete a message without listening to it.

      1. MJB7

        Answer phones

        "Most answering machines won't let you delete a message without listening to it." I don't think I've ever tried deleting a message without listening to some of it - but I've never had an answerphone which didn't let you delete a partly listened-to message.

    4. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Why would they want to avoid addressing the mark directly?

      I think the objective was to leave a voice-mail.

  5. Denarius Silver badge

    really time

    to change company incorporation laws across the world so that directors cop the wrath, not shells and shareholders. A few more corporate crims incarcerated in corporation run prisons would be delightfully ironic. And just.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: really time

      "so that directors cop the wrath"

      In most countries, company laws explicitly do _not_ shield directors or boards from personal liability for wilfully making illegal/criminal decisions. There have been various cases underscoring that over time.

      "Limited liability" is a term which refers to shareholder financial liabilities, not criminal ones.

      The bigger problem with the current junkfax/email/robocalls is that there aren't statutory criminal penalties for the grosser breaches (CLID forgery, etc etc). The FTC can only take civil action.

  6. DougS Silver badge

    They're going after the wrong criminals

    Don't go after the robocall kings, that's mostly a waste of time since anyone with half a brain will be operating in countries with lax laws and/or easily bribed officials. Take one down there will always be another popping up to take his place. It is like trying to take down spam kings.

    They should go after the companies whose products/services are being advertised via robocalls and spam, and don't let them get away with "we hired a third party to promote us, we didn't realize they were using illegal methods"

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: They're going after the wrong criminals

      No, they're going after the right ones. Stop the equipment and software manufacturers, stop the VOIP gateway operators and you nip the problem at the root.

      The companies whose products/services are being advertised are, for the most part, scammers. So the company exists only as an excuse to get a credit card number.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: They're going after the wrong criminals

        "Stop the equipment and software manufacturers, stop the VOIP gateway operators and you nip the problem at the root."

        Good luck with that. most of the equipment is legally made and used and you're not going to shut this stuff down in 190+ countries.

        The entire global telephony system is even more insecure-by-design than the Internet with a a fairly porous outer eggshell of security that assumes anyone with access to the internals is trusted.

        It's not helped by the issue that telcos collect termination fees when accepting calls originated outside of their networks so it's not in their financial interest to intervene to prevent them entering.

        Virtually all of the cases where telcos HAVE intervened are actually driven by telco-level interconnect billing fraud, whereby the incoming calls weren't being paid for. (ie, they only time they've acted is when it's in their financial interest to do so.)

        This is on-par with the USPS refusing mail from Nigeria - not because of the sheer number of scams being run out of Nigeria but for the much simpler reason that 2/3 of the postage stamps on nigerian-originated mail were counterfeit - the USPS wouldn't have given a damn if they were paid per piece of mail, but they were only paid by the Nigerian postal service for the items with genuine stamps.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: They're going after the wrong criminals

      > They should go after the companies whose products/services are being advertised via robocalls and spam, and don't let them get away with "we hired a third party to promote us, we didn't realize they were using illegal methods"

      The TCPA provides joint and several liability for spam calls. One of the bigger hurdles in the USA has been small claims court judges illegally refusing to hear actions or award statutory damages on the basis that it would "hurt the business". In every case that's been kicked up to a higher court the judge in question has been spanked but it still occurs.

  7. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Sounds like the US need PECR and TPS

  8. gormful

    Didn't we hear about the phone companies asking for permission for "ringless voicemail" a few months ago? Because that sounds like it would be a boon to these kinds of scumbags.

  9. Kev99 Bronze badge

    FTC enforcement? Howard, Howard, & Fine could do better

    Since the Do Not Call Registry came out, I've made sure to be on it. Fat lot of good it's done. I've filed numerous complaints with reference to web sites that list offending callers. Nada. Zilch. Nil. Now the robocallers are hitting cell phones.

    What I don't understand is why the phone companies don't block spoofed calls. They have to know to whom to bill a call so the actual source number should be transmitted at some point. We live in a small town of under 10,000 so there's no way there are a dozen "call centers" located here using our single phone exchange.

    1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Re: FTC enforcement? Howard, Howard, & Fine could do better

      Since the Do Not Call Registry came out, I've made sure to be on it.

      DNCR/DNCL only apply for companies operating in that country. Companies operating outside the country are not bound by this.

      What I don't understand is why the phone companies don't block spoofed calls.

      The problem is that their numbers are spoofed. And this is not using any trickery. It's all in the call server they're using. Anything will work (including a blank) in the CID field. No caller ID is easy to block or screen. But spoofed numbers, however, aren't. Telcos can't block spoofed numbers because no one is sure what their source address is.

      The problem is that setting up a robocall "farm" is easy. Getting a VoIP account is even easier. If there is a way to trace their calls all the way to their VoIP provider, then I'm for it.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: FTC enforcement? Howard, Howard, & Fine could do better

        "If there is a way to trace their calls all the way to their VoIP provider, then I'm for it."

        The only way to do this requires fundamental security changes to the global telephony system that are unlikely to ever get out of ITU arguments stage as they'll effectively require a "big bang" changeover.

        The inter-telco billing fraud and related routing fraud issues have been known about (and exploited) for 30 years, but its become a pandemic over the last few years.

        Telcos haven't cared in the past as long as they somehow get their termination cut of the call income but as the scammers have gotten greedier/more desperate the level of bilking has started making accountants sit up and take notice.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: FTC enforcement? Howard, Howard, & Fine could do better

        "DNCR/DNCL only apply for companies operating in that country. Companies operating outside the country are not bound by this."

        Take a closer look. in the case of most USA DNCR/DNCLs there are long-arm statutes associated.

        What that means is that as long as the company making the calls is "doing business" in the jurisdiction (either with the hirer or the callee), then they fall under enforcement.

        One of the more memorable FTC TCPA actions was against a UK-based junk faxer in 1999. It was successful too.

  10. Nab003

    Wish I could get something out of it!

    I get between 10 and 30 robo calls a week. It doesn't matter if you "press 9 to be taken off our calling list in 48 to 72 hours" or just take every call to see how many solicitors you can get to tell you to "go [=@< yourself, man" haha...while I do like messing with the call center people (even though it's not their fault) I would rather them stop calling all together...I'm tired of it!

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