Brian Weiss

FCC, FTC Credit Industry Traceback Group for Work to Slow COVID-19 Robocall Scams

International call campaigns stopped at the source by Industry Tracecback Group intervention

“THIS is why we traceback. It works.”

Background: Representing a major initiative against COVID-19 robocall scammers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today sent letters to three “gateway providers” identified as responsible for allowing suspected illegal calls to enter U.S. telephone networks. The FCC also made clear that voice service providers “can and should” stop carrying call traffic from these companies if they continue to accept these calls.

In a separate letter to USTelecom on behalf of the Industry Traceback Group (ITG), the FCC and FTC acknowledged the critical work of USTelecom and ITG members for their ongoing enforcement cooperation and for tracing – and successfully identifying the source of – multiple COVID-19 robocalls scams.

The following statement can be attributed to Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO, USTelecom:

Sad to say, but robocall scammers are out in force during this public health emergency, using COVID-19 to prey on vulnerable consumers. As soon as these scams started popping up, we began aggressively tracing them – literally around the world. You can draw a direct line from our quick traceback work to paths into the U.S for these dangerous COVID-19 robocalls being shut off.

THIS is why we traceback illegal robocalls. It works.

“This is USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group at work: technology, coordination, real time – and actionable – data, and enforcement by government to bring perpetrators to justice. USTelecom appreciates the FCC and FTC for today’s important announcement and their ongoing commitment to rooting out illegal robocalls.”

Recent robocall scams directly impacted by traceback:

  • The Industry Traceback Group traced a COVID-19 testing kit scam to a VoIP provider in the Philippines. ITG notified the provider it was carrying suspect traffic bound for the U.S. and within 24 hours the provider indicated it severed its relationship with the customer and the calls stopped.
  • The Industry Traceback Group traced a COVID-19 HVAC duct cleaning scam to a Florida provider receiving the calls from Pakistan. After notification by ITG, downstream call providers receiving traffic from the Florida entity intervened and the calls stopped.
  • The Industry Traceback group traced a COVID-19 work from home for Amazon scam. In about an hour, ITG traced the calls to a provider in California who stopped taking the illegal calls from a customer based in Utah.

Recent robocall news:

  • Last month the Federal Trade Commission sent letters to nine VoIP providers warning that “assisting and facilitating” illegal telemarketing or robocalls related to the COVID-19 pandemic is against the law. The FTC thanked USTelecom for its assistance combatting illegal calls via the Industry Traceback Group.
  • USTelecom op-ed in Bloomberg law: “Efforts to Block Robocall ‘Gateway’ Providers Are Getting Stronger”
  • Industry Traceback Group’s 2019 Progress Report available here.