If it were the 1800s, we might be tempted to break these suspects out of jail so we could handle them through “vigilante justice.” Few things irritate Americans more than robocall scams. Finally the U.S. government is taking action on at least part of the problem.
The U.S. government on Tuesday sued five U.S. companies and three individuals, alleging they were behind hundreds of millions of fraudulent robocalls that scammed elderly Americans and others into “massive financial losses.”
The suit notes that most of the calls originated in India and used voice over internet protocol (VoIP) carriers, which use internet connections instead of traditional copper phone lines. That’s how the callers “spoof,” or pretend to be calling from your local area.
The companies named in the suits include Tollfreedeals.com, Global Voicecom Inc., Global Telecommunication Services Inc and KAT Telecom Inc. The Justice Department said the robocalls led to “massive financial losses to elderly and vulnerable victims across the nation.”
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, who overseas the Eastern District of New York office, said that for the first time, the Justice Department was targeting “U.S.-based enablers” and seeking temporary restraining orders to block further calls. The government said the firms were warned numerous times they were carrying fraudulent robocalls.
At the end of last year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a measure aimed at cracking down on frustrating calls.
The companies and individuals named in the suit didn’t place the calls themselves. Instead, their organizations handled the electronic pipelines that perpetrators used to make the calls.
The Justice Department alleged TollFreeDeals.com carried 720 million calls during one 23-day period, and that more than 425 million of those calls lasted less than one second, which suggests they were robocalls.
The government said in a court filing Tuesday that:
“with little more than off the shelf VoIP technology, an autodialer and a business relationship with a gateway carriers, any individual or entity with a broadband internet connection can introduce unlimited numbers of robocalls into the U.S. telephone system from any location in the world.”
The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 400,000 complaints last year, with imposter fraud claims of $152.9 million. That’s considered a gross under-count because so many of the scams go unreported.