The Federal Communications Commission yesterday issued about $120 million dollars’ worth of fines to two robocallers accused of spoofing real people’s phone numbers.
In one of the cases, the robocaller made 21 million calls overall and told the FCC that he spoofed real people’s numbers in Caller ID in order to avoid angry call-backs to his own phone.
In the first case, the FCC fined telemarketer Philip Roesel and his companies more than $82 million. This is the same amount that the FCC proposed to fine Roesel a year ago—as is standard, the commission gave him a chance to respond before making the decision final.
Roesel and his companies made more than 21 million robocalls from late 2016 to early 2017 attempting to sell health insurance, the FCC said.
Roesel spoofed Caller ID to make it appear that the calls were coming from other numbers, in some cases numbers that belong to real people. This is a nuisance for people who receive the calls and for people whose numbers are spoofed, because recipients of robocalls often call the number they see on their Caller ID to complain.
Roesel told the FCC that he spoofed other people’s phone numbers because he wanted to avoid getting angry return calls, the FCC said.
Roesel’s response to the FCC argued that he “spoofed the caller ID to avoid having his cell phone ‘overwhelmed’ with return phone calls from consumers that he robocalled—to protect his own phone number from the same kind of disruption he was imposing on consumers,” the FCC said.
After reviewing Roesel’s response to the proposed fine, the FCC said it found “no reason” to cancel or reduce the proposed penalty.
“In response to the proposed fine, Mr. Roesel claimed that the Commission failed to prove intent to harm, that any value he received was not ‘wrongfully’ obtained, and that he did not know he caused harm,” the FCC said. “The Commission determined that the evidence did not support these claims and is imposing a fine in the amount originally proposed, one of the largest forfeitures ever imposed by the agency.”
The FCC noted that Roesel’s Caller ID spoofing “made it difficult for consumers to register complaints and for law enforcement entities to track and stop the illegal calls.”
48,349 calls from one spoofed number
In the other action announced yesterday, the FCC proposed a fine of more than $37.5 million against Affordable Enterprises of Arizona, accusing the outfit of “making millions of illegally spoofed telemarketing calls that appeared to originate from consumers and other numbers not assigned to the company.”
“One Arizonan received more than five calls per day on her cell phone from consumers complaining about telemarketing calls they thought she had made,” the FCC said in its announcement. The unlucky person received the calls for two months beginning around May 2017 before they finally stopped. Call records showed that Affordable Enterprises made at least 48,349 calls that spoofed her number, the FCC said.
“Records show that Affordable Enterprises had made spoofed telemarketing calls to consumers that appeared to be coming from the cell phone of this unaffiliated Arizonan,” the FCC said. “Such calling tactics harm both the consumers receiving the deceptive calls and those whose numbers are essentially commandeered by the telemarketer.”
The FCC said Affordable Enterprises made more than 2.3 million spoofed calls over 14 months starting in 2016 in order to sell home improvement and remodeling services. Since the fine is just in the proposal stage, Affordable Enterprises will have a chance to respond and try to settle with the FCC.
While robocalls are still a big problem, the FCC last year issued an order authorizing phone companies to more aggressively block robocalls from invalid numbers and spoofed Caller IDs.