The FCC today fined a robocaller $9,918,000 for illegally using caller ID spoofing “with the intent to cause harm.”
The fine is just a little less than the $10 million fine the FCC issued late last year for a robocaller making false political claims.
According to the most recent complaint the robocaller used harmful, pre-recorded messages threatening or attacking political candidates, jurors, a journalist and others, using spoofing technology that made thousands of calls appear to be from local numbers, a method known as “neighbor spoofing.”
The calls were made in 2018 to different areas of the country as the caller attempted to gain publicity for his website and personal brand while also causing harm to call recipients, the FCC said.
Among a few of the specific complaints:
- In Iowa, the caller spoofed a local number to robocall residents of the town of Brooklyn and surrounding areas with xenophobic messages referring to the arrest of an illegal alien for the murder of a local college student.
- In Idaho, the caller used the spoofing technology to call residents of the city of Sandpoint, attacking the local newspaper and its publisher after they reported the identity of the caller.
- In Virginia, the callers made robocalls to residents of Charlottesville based on a false conspiracy theory in an apparent attempt to influence the jury in the murder trial of James Fields, prompting the judge to explicitly instruct the jury pool to ignore the calls.
“The law is clear: spoofed caller ID robocalls used with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or cheat recipients is unlawful,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a prepared statement. “In this instance, not only were the calls unlawful, but the caller took them to new levels of egregiousness. With today’s fine, we once again make clear our commitment to aggressively go after those who are unlawfully bombarding the American people with spoofed robocalls.”
The Forfeiture Order follows a January 2020 Notice of Apparent Liability which gave the offender a chance to dispute the allegations or make other arguments. The fine was lowered a bit as a result. If the fine is not paid within 30 days, the Commission will refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.