Consumers are getting more robocalls than ever. Technology is the reason: Companies are using autodialers that can send out thousands of phone calls every minute for an incredibly low cost.
Using its enforcement authority, the FTC has stopped companies responsible for billions of illegal robocalls that have offered fraudulent credit card services, so-called auto warranty protection plans, medical discount cards, and grant procurement programs.
The Commission recently concluded a market-stimulation challenge, awarding prizes to innovators who developed technical solutions to the problem of illegal robocalls. In addition, the FTC is continuing aggressive law enforcement efforts, pursuing innovative strategies to gather evidence against robocall kingpins, producing consumer education, and coordinating with industry and other experts to fight robocallers.
- FTC Announces Robocall Challenge Winners (April 2, 2013)
- FTC to Announce Winners of Robocall Challenge (April 1, 2013)
- Robocaller Banned From Telemarketing in Settlement with FTC (February 19, 2013)
- FTC Sends Refunds from Scheme That Allegedly Sold Bogus Plans to Lower Credit Card Interest Rate (February 15, 2013)
- FTC Robocall Challenge Garners More Than 700 Submissions (January 31, 2013)
- FTC Shuts Down Robocall Operation That Allegedly Claimed to Help Consumers Get FTC Consumer Refunds
(December 3, 2012)
- FTC Leads Joint Law Enforcement Effort Against Companies That Allegedly Made Deceptive "Cardholder Services" Robocalls (November 1, 2012)
- FTC Challenges Innovators to Do Battle with Robocallers (October 18, 2012)
- FTC Announces Public Summit on Robocalls (October 4, 2012)
- FTC halts debt relief operation accused of making illegal robocalls (September 18, 2012)
- FTC mails 4,468 checks to victims of robocall credit card interest rate reduction scam (September 4, 2012)
- FTC Robocalls Facebook Q&A Transcript (July 17, 2012)
- FTC Robocalls Twitter Chat Transcript (July 17, 2012)
- FTC Offers Consumers Tips on How to Respond to Unwanted Robocalls (July 10, 2012)
The FTC's Robocall Action Plan
Under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the vast majority of calls that deliver a prerecorded message trying to sell you something are illegal, unless you’ve given written permission for the caller to call you. These “robocalls” are illegal even if your phone number is not registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Most legitimate businesses adhere to the Telemarketing Sales Rule and do not place illegal robocalls. Unfortunately, however, the prevalence of illegal robocalls has increased significantly in recent years due to technological advances that make it easier and cheaper to:
- make large numbers of robocalls to consumers from anywhere in the world
- fake Caller ID information in an attempt to mislead consumers and evade law enforcement
The FTC is working on multiple initiatives to combat the problem of illegal robocalls, including:
- Continuing Aggressive Law Enforcement
The Federal Trade Commission continues to target high volume offenders and pursue “chokepoints” in the calling process to stop the largest number of illegal calls. The agency has stopped companies responsible for making billions of robocalls since September of 2009, and will continue to identify, locate, and prosecute those responsible for illegal robocalls.
- Gathering Evidence Strategically
The FTC is focused on fighting robocalls with the most innovative and strategic law enforcement techniques available. As one example, the agency has created a telephone “honeypot” that is currently receiving incoming robocalls. This new tool will help the agency gather evidence about illegal robocalls directly and act on this information as quickly as possible.
- Coordinating with Law Enforcement, Industry, and Other Stakeholders
On October 18, 2012, the agency hosted a public summit on robocalls. FTC staff continue to hold meetings and calls with engineers, technologists, industry experts, and others to discuss methods to better trace unlawful robocalls, combat caller ID spoofing, and stop illegal calls.
- Pursuing Technological Solutions
The FTC held its first public challenge, offering a $50,000 prize for an innovation to help curb illegal robocalls. On April 2, 2013, the agency announced three winning solutions. The Commission is now inviting all challenge contestants to make a version of their submissions public to further the national conversation about illegal robocalls.
What's a Robocall & What To Do When You Get One
What's a Robocall?
If you pick up the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, that's a robocall.
If the recording is a sales message (not a call from your healthcare provider or a charity), and you haven't given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. Period.
What To Do When You Get an Illegal Robocall
- Hang Up. Do not press 1 or any other numbers to get off the list.
- Consider blocking the number.
- Report it at www.donotcall.gov.
For more info on what to do: