US regulators have launched a nationwide crackdown on companies that flood US consumers with billions of spam and illegal telemarketing calls.
The action, known as Operation Stop Scam Call, was announced Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission and involves more than 100 federal and state law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as the attorneys general of all 50 states and Washington, DC.
In addition to telcos, the action will target so-called consent farms that provide your personal information to robocallers while falsely saying consumers have agreed to receive the calls. The crackdown also targets Voice over Internet Protocol providers that facilitate illegal robocalls, which often originate outside the US.
“We are cracking down on those who trick people into falsely consenting to receive these calls and those who make it easy and cheap to make these calls,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement announcing the crackdown.
The FTC received more than 1.8 million complaints about robocalls in 2022, up from 3.4 million a year earlier. More than 2.5 million people signed up last year to the Do Not Call registry, which allows consumers to register their numbers with the FTC to let telemarketers know they shouldn’t be called. As of November, the registry contained more than 246 million phone numbers.
See also: How to stop those annoying spam calls you get every day
The FTC said it has filed 167 cases against illegal callers and do-not-call registry violators, with defendants ordered to pay more than $2 billion.
One such target of the FTC is Fluent, a New York-based media company that allegedly operated a consent farm that lured consumers to its websites with the promise of job interviews and $1,000 Walmart gift cards. Instead of offering the promised job opportunity or reward, the websites tricked consumers out of their personal information and “consent” to receive robocalls, which they then sold to third-party marketers, the FTC said.
Fluent used these tactics to recruit and sell more than 620 million telemarketing customers from January 2018 to December 2019, the FTC said. Fluent faces a $2.5 million fine and ban on robocall activity under a proposed settlement.
Fluent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For tips on keeping robocalls to a minimum, see how to block unknown callers on iPhone and how to set up Google’s call screen feature.