FCC makes major move to crack down on 'auto warranty' robocalls

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The agency has given tips specifically for consumers who get robocalls and robotexts

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is cracking down further on illegal robocalls, with regulators setting their sights firmly on auto warranty scam calls that have defrauded consumers for years.

The agency is specifically serving notice to Roy Cox, Jr., Aaron Michael Jones, their Sumco Panama companies, and their international associates. Officials say that network has been the source of more than 8 billion robocalls.

The Cox/Jones/Sumco Panama operation has been working the auto warranty angle since 2018. Officials accuse the entities of sending unlawful message calls that encourage consumers to speak with one of their “warranty specialists” about extending or reinstating their car warranty. 

“We are not going to tolerate robocall scammers or those that help make their scams possible,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Consumers are out of patience and I’m right there with them.”

Rosenworcel means business when it comes to robocalls. Under her command, the FCC’s Robocall Response Team has rung up record-breaking spoofing and robocall fines, closed gateways used by international robocallers to reach Americans’ phones, and signed robocall investigation partnerships with 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. 

Rosenworcel was also quick to realize that robocallers would be moving to bogus robotexts when their operations were taken down. With that data in hand, she began work on policy proposals to combat these malicious messages before they spiral even more out of control.

Going for the 1-2 punch

The FCC isn’t going at this alone. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has added some extra muscle by filing a separate lawsuit against Sumco Panama and people connected to that operation. Yost may be the FCC's perfect partner when it comes to robocalls. He recently entered into a settlement with G4 Telecom Inc., a voice service provider that was carrying traffic for bad actors who engaged in nearly 180 million robocalls over the course of a year.

Separately, the FCC and Yost doubled their chances of forcing telecoms to cut those robocalls off before they ever got to a consumer. Yost sent warning letters to 10 providers informing them about the “laws, regulations and enforcement actions that may bear upon their business activities.” If those service providers don’t take the steps Yost wants, he warned them that his office may pursue enforcement action. 

The FCC sent out another eight cease-and-desist letters to voice service providers that the agency identified through tracebacks of those calls. Those letters warned the providers to stop any suspicious traffic within 48 hours and to report back with the exact steps they took.

ConsumerAffairs reached out to Sumco Panama's listed agent of record, but the official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Consumer tips

The sneaky part of extended auto warranty calls is that while they purport to be focused on someone’s vehicle, they actually may be seeking consumers’ personal or financial information in order to defraud them. Scammers might try to initiate a payment or garner information about active phones with the data they collect on one of these calls.

The FCC says consumers will have to stay vigilant against these threats until every telecom meets standards for blocking these calls and messages. Here are the agency’s tips: 

  • Don’t share. Whatever you do, don't provide any personal information to anyone that calls you unexpectedly.

  • Be aware. Telephone scammers are very good at what they do, and one of the tactics they may employ is using real information to imply that they work for a company you trust.

  • Don't trust Caller ID. Criminals might use “spoofing” to deliberately falsify the information transmitted.

  • Double check with real sources. If you think it might be a legitimate call, hang up and call the company that you have an established business relationship with by using a phone number from a previous bill or on its website.

If you suspect that you've been targeted by scammers, let the FCC know so that the agency can respond accordingly. The best way to file a complaint is to go to the agency's robocall and robotext complaint site here.

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