FTC and FCC Demand Providers Stop COVID-19 Robocall Scams

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission demanded service providers take measures to stop coronavirus-related scam robocalls. “The FCC and FTC have been working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice on this first-of-its-kind effort to stop scammers from reaching American consumers,” a press release says.

They sent letters with specific warnings to three US gateway providers facilitating calls from overseas including SIPJoin of Suffolk, Virginia; Connexum of Orange, California; and VoIP Terminator/BLMarketing of Lake Mary, Florida. They said if the providers do not cut off the calls after 48 hours they would allow other phone companies to block all traffic from the gateway providers’ networks.

“When it comes to scam robocalls, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. These phone companies need to cut off this traffic and protect consumers from these scams. The choice is simple: Move forward as responsible network providers or see themselves cut off from the phone system,” warned FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in the press release. “During this national emergency, it is unconscionable that these companies are abusing their access to our nation’s telephone network by serving as conduits for scam robocallers who are subjecting Americans to coronavirus-related fraud. This must end and must end now.”

Some of the COVID-19 related scam robocall campaigns include one originating in the Philippines offering a “free test kit” and one originating in Pakistan offering HVAC cleaning services to help combat COVID-19.  The FCC encouraged consumers who receive scam robocalls to file a complaint with the FCC.

The Federal Trade Commission posted tips to avoid coronavirus scams including hanging up and not pushing any numbers, ignoring online offers for vaccinations and home test kits, not clicking on links from unknown sources, fact-checking information, and being aware of who you are buying from. They warned against text or emails from the CDC or about checks from the government saying to check official websites to get accurate information.

Last week the FCC passed rules requiring phone companies to help combat spoofed robocalls with a technical standard called STIR/SHAKEN, where they would be required to check that the caller ID information matches the caller’s number.