Few things are more infuriating and annoying these days than the dozens of robocalls spoofing real phone numbers. Perhaps that’s why hearing that the FCC slapped a robocaller with a mega fine recently felt so great for so many people who have been on the receiving end of these calls.
According to a Gizmodo report, to crack down on robocallers who spoof real numbers to get recipients to pick up the phone calls, the FCC imposed a $37.5 million fine on Affordable Enterprises, an Arizona-based company. According to The Verge, this is the first significant proposed fine against companies that participate in robocalling and spoofing.
The FCC announcement said that Affordable Enterprises “made more than 2.3 million maliciously-spoofed telemarketing calls to Arizonans during a 14-month span starting in 2016 to sell home improvement and remodeling services.” The FCC also said that the fine represents the “first major enforcement action against a company that apparently commandeered consumers’ phone numbers.”
The company began its spoofing campaign in 2016, and it ran for 14 months causing trouble for the real people who owned the numbers that the company used in its spoofing activities.
The infuriating rise of robocalls in the past year was confirmed by a First Orion study recently. They found that from 2017 to 2018 the number of robocalls rose from 3.7 percent to 29 percent, which is almost unbelievable, and positively unbearable for recipients of the constant barrage of unwanted telephone calls.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) September 27, 2018
By next year, though, consumers will feel the pain even more acutely when that number rises to a predicted 45 percent.
While spoofing numbers isn’t inherently illegal, the FCC got AE because when spoofing is done with “the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value,” it carries a fine of up to $10,000 per instance. Even so, the $37.5 million is merely the FCC’s initial proposal for the Arizona-based company. Legal proceedings could change the final fine amount depending on if the company wants to fight the fine in court or decides to settle it.
The misery for people who take advantage of spoofing numbers to trick people into answering the phone got even worse as the FCC also fined Philip Roesel, a telemarketer whose companies made over 21 million robocalls to market insurance, $82 million. Roesel’s company actually spoofed using fake numbers instead of numbers already assigned to people.
Although these fines are a good first step, unfortunately, many of these types of irritating calls originate from other countries, which means the FCC has no means of preventing them, so consumers probably won’t receive fewer of the calls as a result of the FCC’s actions.