The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission gave three gateway companies 48 hours to cut off robocalls peddling COVID-19-related scams, or else the FCC will authorize U.S. telecom companies not to accept calls which originate from those gateway providers.
The calls include a scam in which the call claims to be from the Social Security Administration and tells the recipient that their Social Security account is being suspended; calls shilling a fake COVID-19-related “refund”; and fraudulent offers to reduce people’s payments on mortgages, student loans or other bills. All of the calls originate overseas.
The three gateway companies where the calls allegedly originate were identified by the USTelecom Industry Traceback Group, which is a group of wireless, wireline, cable and Voice over IP providers who work to identify and trace the sources of illegal robocalls, then collaborate with enforcement agencies. The group is managed by industry association USTelecom.
In a series of letters to the three gateway companies (Intelepeer of San Mateo, California; PTGi Carrier Services of Washington, DC; and RSCom of Knoxville, Tennessee and Aurora, Ontario), the FCC and FTC told those companies that they had identified themselves as the originating provider for apparently illegal robocalls, but refused to disclose the identities of the actual clients who were responsible for the calls to the ITG. That refusal, the agencies said, “makes it difficult for U.S. network providers to protect themselves against illegal robocall traffic from those sources. This is particularly problematic in the case of malicious robocalls capitalizing on public anxiety about the ongoing global health crisis. We will take all necessary and appropriate action to prevent these robocalls from entering U.S. networks.”
If the companies don’t stop routing and transmitting those calls within 48 hours, the FCC and FTC said, the FCC “will authorize other U.S. voice providers to block all calls from [the companies]and take any other steps as needed to prevent further transmission of unlawful calls from [them], and we will evaluate whether further action is appropriate.”
The two agencies took similar action against three other gateway providers (SIPJoin of Suffolk, Virginia; Connexum of Orange, California; and VoIP Terminator/BLMarketing of Lake Mary, Florida) in April, also in collaboration with USTelecom’s ITG. That action resulted in calls being shut down within 24 hours, the agencies said.
The FCC is keeping a list of known COVID-19 related text and robocall scams here.
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