Last month, the Federal Trade Commission announced Operation Call It Quits, a joint effort with state and federal partners to attack the scourge of illegal robocalls.
The battle against robocalls involves multiple federal and state agencies, the private sector and you.
The FTC started the fight against robocalls by making it illegal to use robocalls to sell products unless the caller has written permission of the person being called. That means that if you get a robocall trying to sell you something and you haven’t signed up to get the call, the caller is willing to break the law to get to you. That’s one reason to just hang up on robocalls: don’t engage, don’t press any buttons. You don’t want to deal with criminals that have your phone number.
The FTC announced four new cases as part of Operation Call It Quits, including one filed by the Cleveland office. With the new cases, the FTC has brought 145 cases against 479 companies and 387 individuals responsible for illegal calls. And Operation Call It Quits also included 25 federal, state, and local law enforcement partners that brought another 87 enforcement actions. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office was one of the partners. Five of the actions are criminal cases brought by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Robo-dialers are often offshore operations operating under fake names using difficult-to-trace computer networks. That’s why law enforcement can’t be the only answer to the problem. The FTC has long been encouraging technological solutions as well as law enforcement actions. For example, the FTC sponsored four public challenges to promote the development of call-blocking tools, some of which are available on the open market or through your telephone carriers.
You’re an important element in the fight against robocalls. That’s why the FTC encourages a three-step approach when you receive a robocall: hang up, block and report.
First, if you accidentally pick up a robocall, hang up right away. Don’t talk to anyone or press a number, even if the message says it’s to get off their list. Remember, these guys are already breaking the law – they don’t care about your request not to be called.
Second, block as many calls as you can, using the tools that are out there. Visit ftc.gov/calls to learn about the options that exist for different phones (eg, landlines or cell phones) and contact your carriers to see what services they offer.
Third, report. After you hang up and add the number to your blocking tool, report the call to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. The more information you can give about the call, the better the FTC and its partners can target law enforcement efforts.
Jon Miller Steiger is the East Central region director of the Federal Trade Commission in Cleveland. The views expressed in this column are his and not the official positions of the FTC or any of its commissioners.