FTC Announces “Operation Stop Scam Calls”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) partnered with more than 100 federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the Attorneys General from all 50 states to crackdown on illegal telemarketing, including robocalls. “Operation Stop Scam Calls” involves more than 180 enforcement actions against operations responsible for billions of unwanted calls to consumers.

The initiative’s focus is on telemarketers and the companies that hire them. Operation Stop Scam Calls will also target lead generators who deceptively collect and provide consumers’ telephone numbers to robocallers and others. The agencies involved will also target Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers who facilitate illegal robocalls, which often originate overseas. Third-party lead generation for robocalls is illegal under the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).

“Government agencies at all levels are united in fighting the scourge of illegal telemarketing. We are taking action against those who trick people into phony consent to receive these calls and those who make it easy and cheap to place these calls,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC and its law enforcement partners will not rest in the fight against illegal telemarketing.”

The FTC highlighted several new cases against companies and individuals responsible for distributing or assisting in the distribution of illegal telemarketing calls that were part of Operation Stop Scam Calls.

In addition to the FTC actions detailed below, 48 federal and 54 state agencies have brought more than 180 enforcement actions and other initiatives as part of Operation Stop Scam Calls. Contributing law enforcers include the Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Viceroy Media Solutions, LLC

In a complaint, the FTC says Viceroy Media Solutions, LLC, which does business as quick-jobs.com, and Voltron Interactive violated the FTC Act and the TSR by assisting and facilitating millions of illegal robocalls while doing business as a telemarketing lead generator.

The FTC alleges the defendants owned and operated the lead generation websites, quick-jobs.com and localjobindex.com, that act as consent farms to gather consumers’ personal information along with their supposed consent to receive robocalls. In reality, consumers have not consented to receive robocalls, as the defendants claim when selling their leads to telemarketers.

The FTC says that consumers who visited quick-jobs.com and localjobindex.com were tricked into providing their contact information in exchange for receiving local job listings, according to the complaint. The real purpose of the sites, however, was to collect and aggregate “leads” consisting of consumers’ personal information and purported consent to receive telemarketing robocalls. In turn, the defendants sold these leads to telemarketing clients, who relied on consumers’ purported consent to justify robocalling consumers.

The proposed order settling the charges against the defendants bans them from helping companies place robocalls and imposes a $913,636 civil penalty, which will be partially suspended based on their inability to pay.

Yodel Technologies, LLC

The FTC’s complaint against telemarking company Yodel Technologies, LLC and its owner Robert Pulsipher alleges they violated the TSR by calling millions of consumers whose numbers are on the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry and did not consent to be called. Yodel provides soundboard calling services to clients who use robocalls to sell products and services, including auto insurance, cruises, medical devices, extended auto warranties, and supposed assistance with Social Security benefits. Soundboard technology allows call center agents to play prerecorded audio clips in response to specific consumer statements or questions, making them sound more authentic than traditional robocalls.

The complaint charges that between January 2018 and May 2021, Yodel initiated more than 1.4 billion calls to U.S. consumers, most of which used soundboard technology. Many of the calls were to phone numbers obtained from lead-generation websites. For instance, Yodel made more than 14 million calls to leads obtained from Viceroy Media, another company sued as part of Operation Stop Scam Calls. More than 500 million of Yodel’s calls went to consumers with numbers on the DNC Registry.

Under the proposed order settling the complaint, Yodel and Pulsipher will be banned from participating in telemarketing, either directly or through an intermediary. It also imposes a $1 million civil penalty against them, which will be partially suspended after they pay $400,000.

Solar Xchange LLC

In a complaint filed with the State of Arizona, the FTC charged that Vision Solar LLC; Solar Xchange LLC, which also did business as Energy Exchange, violated the FTC Act, the TSR, and Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act and Telephone Solicitation Act by making unlawful telemarketing calls on behalf of Vision Solar. The Commission and Arizona say that Energy Exchange placed tens of millions of calls to consumers whose numbers are listed on the DNC Registry—thousands of whom reported receiving dozens of calls.

Vision Solar’s telemarketers at times falsely claimed to be affiliated with a utility company or government agency and misrepresented the amount of money that consumers could expect to save on their energy bills by buying and installing solar panels on their homes, according to the complaint. The FTC also charged that Vision Solar, which has not settled the FTC’s complaint, violated the FTC Act by making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims during in-person sales presentations to consumers.

Under a proposed order settling the charges, Solar Xchange will be prohibited from: misrepresenting that they are affiliated with any utility or government agency; making unsubstantiated claims regarding the cost of installing solar panels; and engaging in abusive telemarketing practices. It also imposes a partially suspended civil penalty of $13.8 million.

Hello Hello Miami, LLC

The FTC’s complaint against Hello Hello Miami (HHM) alleges that the defendants assisted and facilitated the transmission of approximately 37.8 million illegal robocalls by providing VoIP services to more than 11 foreign telemarketers. HHM operates a “point of entry” or “gateway” VoIP service provider—the entry point for foreign calls into the United States.

According to the complaint, the overseas robocallers used HHM’s VoIP services to bombard consumers with tens of millions of illegal calls using pre-recorded messages impersonating Amazon.com. In its complaint, the FTC is seeking to permanently bar HHM from assisting and facilitating illegal telemarketing robocallers and monetary relief for defrauded consumers, as well as civil penalties.

CompliancePoint has a suite of services designed to help organizations that utilize telemarketing minimize their risk by maintaining compliance with the TCPA, TSR, and other marketing regulations. Contact us at connect@compliancepoint.com to learn how we can help your organization.

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