The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday it has shut down and slapped multimillion dollar fines on four scammy robocalling companies collectively responsible for "billions" of calls to phone numbers across the U.S.
One of the firms is said to have scammed businesses by pretending to be Google.
All four have shut down as part of settlements of lawsuits with the FTC, and owners of the companies are barred from starting up another other robocalling business (and in some cases, *any* telemarketing business). The settlements also impose fines, the lowest of which is about $500,000, and the highest roughly $3.64 million.
The FTC's announcement went out late Tuesday. Snip:
The settlements are part of the agency's ongoing efforts to combat the scourge of illegal robocalls. Under the court orders announced today, the defendants are banned from robocalling and most telemarketing activities, including those using an automatic dialer, and will pay significant financial judgments. The defendant in one of these cases provided the software platform that resulted in more than one billion illegal robocalls.
"We have brought dozens of cases targeting illegal robocalls, and fighting unwanted calls remains one of our highest priorities," said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We also have great advice on call-blocking services and how to reduce unwanted calls at www.consumer.FTC.gov."
Here's an excerpt from coverage by Adi Robertson at the Verge:
The FTC filed suits against the four companies — NetDotSolutions, Higher Goals Marketing, Veterans of America, and Pointbreak Media — between late 2017 and mid-2018. NetDotSolutions licensed an auto-dialing system called TelWeb to other robocallers, and a related company called World Connection operated call centers for customers who answered the automated calls. Higher Goals pitched fake debt relief services, and Veterans of America allegedly conned people into donating vehicles for a fake veterans charity.
Pointbreak, meanwhile, sent robocalls claiming to be from Google "data service providers" or "authorized Google My Business agencies." The calls told small business owners that they were about to be listed as "permanently closed" in Google's search results, then asked for hundreds of dollars to keep the listing online. If a business paid up, Pointbreak would ask for even higher rates to optimize its search ranking.