Federal regulators are asking telecom providers to do their part to stop COVID-19 robocall scams from bombarding American consumers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned three gateway providers facilitating these scam robocalls, which originate from overseas, that they must cut off these calls or face serious consequences.
Unless these gateway providers stop bringing these calls into the United States, other phone companies will be able to begin blocking all traffic from these gateway providers’ networks. The regulators said they have been working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice on this first-of-its-kind effort to stop scammers from reaching American consumers.
Specifically, both the FCC and FTC called out SIPJoin of Suffolk, Virginia; Connexum of Orange, California; and VoIP Terminator/BLMarketing of Lake Mary, Florida for facilitating COVID-19 robocall scams. These gateway providers were identified by the Traceback Group, a USTelecom consortium of phone companies that help officials track down suspect scam callers.
“These phone companies need to cut off this traffic and protect consumers from these scams. The choice is simple: Move forward as responsible network providers or see themselves cut off from the phone system,” warned FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a prepared statement. “During this national emergency, it is unconscionable that these companies are abusing their access to our nation’s telephone network by serving as conduits for scam robocallers who are subjecting Americans to coronavirus-related fraud.”
Outlining these COVID-19 robocall scams. the FCC identified one campaign, originating from the Philippines, as offering a non-existent “free test kit” for COVID-19. A second campaign, originating in Pakistan, falsely claims HVAC cleaning services will help fight COVID-19.
“This is USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group at work: technology, coordination, real time – and actionable – data, and enforcement by government to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO, USTelecom in a prepared statement. “USTelecom appreciates the FCC and FTC for today’s important announcement and their ongoing commitment to rooting out illegal robocalls.”
The FCC has targeted eliminating robocalls, recently mandating the STIR/SHAKEN standards to protect consumers against malicious caller ID “spoofing,” often used during robocall scam campaigns to trick consumers into answering their phones.