FTC, partners attack the root of robocall schemes

“You don’t need much agricultural expertise to know that every weed is supported by an extensive underground root structure.” What an A+ quote from the Federal Trade Commission’s business blog (Lesley Fair), which gives a visual description of the government’s latest effort to combat pervasive robocalls, this time tackling robocalls’ root structure: third-party lead generators.

The FTC and more than 100 state and federal law enforcers today announced several robocall-related actions.

In one case filed yesterday, the Department of Justice and the FTC sued five entities, including one called Fluent, LLC, alleging that they run a “consent farm,” operation, “using deceptive ads and websites to induce nearly one million consumers a day to provide their personal information and purported consent to receive telemarketing calls.” For example, they promised job interviews and free rewards, when in fact the jobs did not exist, and the rewards were virtually unattainable.

According to the complaint, the entities were able to collect consumers’ personal information and sold it to numerous telemarketers. The telemarketers then relied on consumers’ purported consent to defend robocalls and even calls to numbers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. The five entities running the operation have sold the information of millions of consumers and produced tens of millions of dollars in revenue, the complaint said.

As the government’s allegations show, and in the words of FTC’s Lesley Fair, “the illegal robocall racket depends on the assistance of shadowy operators who are complicit with the illicit.”

The FTC’s latest robocall crackdown is part of the ongoing joint federal and state initiative, aptly named “Operation Stop Scam Calls.”

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