FCC Targets Illegal Robocalls with Proposed Fine for Caller ID Spoofing

Reported ‘neighbor spoofing’ continues to show the harm bad actors can cause for consumers and legitimate businesses as FCC reviews call blocking and labeling tools.

1/31/2020 8:00 AM

FCCNewsAdvocacy
FCC Targets Illegal Robocalls with Proposed Fine for Caller ID Spoofing

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $12 million fine against an individual who reportedly used caller ID spoofing to make thousands of robocalls across several states. “The caller made unlawful, spoofed robocalls to target a community grappling with the recent murder of a local woman, threaten a journalist and newspaper, and attempt to influence a jury. Additionally, the caller made unlawful, spoofed robocalls related to political campaigns in California, Florida, and Georgia,” according to a news release from the FCC.

ACA International applauds investigations and enforcement measures against bad actors acting in violation of the law. ACA urges the FCC to continue to focus on illegal actors and to draw clear distinctions between them and legitimate business callers as outlined in recent comments to the FCC.

According to the news release from the FCC.

“The caller appears to have used an online calling platform to intentionally manipulate caller ID information so that the calls he was making appeared to come from local numbers—a technique called ‘neighbor spoofing.’”

The robocall campaigns included:

  • “California – The caller apparently made 1,496 spoofed robocalls in May 2018 about the state’s U.S. Senate primary. Among other things, the calls attacked the incumbent U.S. Senator’s Jewish heritage using an anti-Semitic trope accusing her of dual loyalties.
  • Florida – The caller apparently made 766 spoofed robocalls in October 2018 to make racist attacks about a Florida gubernatorial candidate. The robocalls falsely claimed to be from the candidate and used “a caricature of a black dialect” with jungle background noises.
  • Georgia—The caller apparently made 583 spoofed robocalls in November 2018 to make racist calls attacking a Georgia gubernatorial candidate. The calls pretended to be from Oprah Winfrey and concerned a racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
  • Idaho – The caller apparently made 750 spoofed robocalls in September 2018 to residents of Sandpoint, Idaho. The calls attacked the local newspaper, the Sandpoint Reader, and its publisher, after the paper had exposed the identity of the caller as the robocaller involved in other calling campaigns. The calls in Sandpoint identified the publisher by name and threateningly called on residents to “Burn out the cancer.”
  • Iowa – The caller apparently made 827 spoofed robocalls in August 2018 following the murder of a local college student and the arrest of an illegal alien from Mexico for the crime. The calls were directed at Brooklyn, Iowa residents and used the town’s local phone number code information. The calls talked about a “brown horde” or “savages” and said the murder victim would have said to “Kill them all.” Those who received these calls included the victim’s family members.
  • Virginia – The caller apparently made 2,023 spoofed robocalls in November and December 2018 to residents of Charlottesville, Virginia during the trial of James Fields who was charged with murdering Heather Heyer by driving an automobile into a crowd of protesters. The calls articulated a racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, which blamed local officials for the crime. The timing of the calls suggests an attempt by the caller to influence the jury. The judge questioned the jurors about the robocalls and explicitly instructed the jury pool to ignore the robocalls.”

When fraudulent callers use spoofing to deliberately falsify the information on the recipient’s caller ID and disguise their identity, as described by the FCC, consumers are harmed.

In the investigation and Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) announced by the FCC Jan. 30, it reports the individual violated the Truth in Caller ID Act, which “prohibits manipulating caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks approved the NAL Jan. 30, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissenting.

“There has been an exponential increase in these nuisance calls. Everyone with a phone knows that. It’s time for this agency to respond in kind by stepping up our own fines. There is nothing in the law that stops us from doing so,” Rosenworcel said in a statement on the fine. “In fact, in the report accompanying the just-passed bipartisan TRACED Act, Congress made abundantly clear that ‘to combat robocalls, stronger penalties are needed.’” “…Because we fail to do so, I dissent.”

Commissioner O’Rielly approved the NAL following removal of some language.

“I have previously taken a slightly different approach from my colleagues when it comes to interpreting the Truth in Caller ID Act’s anti-spoofing provisions,” O’Rielly said. “In my opinion, the text specifically requires evidence of subjective intent to cause harm.  In other words, a negligence standard does not cut it, when Congress specifically indicated that there must be ‘intent.’”

The individual subject to the proposed fine can respond to the NAL before the FCC will act to resolve the matter.

ACA continues to seek data from members to inform the FCC of the impact of current call blocking efforts that have not properly differentiated between bad actors and legitimate callers. ACA will be filing reply comments to the FCC with some additional information about industry harm as a result of overbroad blocking efforts.

ACA also urges the FCC to clarify that voice service providers may no longer rely on “reasonable analytics” to block “unwanted robocalls” on an opt-out basis and  require voice service providers to give notice when they place a derogatory label on a business’s outbound calling number which would be consistent with the TRACED Act now signed into law. One year after enactment of the TRACED Act, it is required that robocall blocking services include transparency and effective redress options for consumers and callers.

The FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee will consider a recommendation on the effectiveness of call blocking tools during a special meeting Feb. 13.

Related content from ACA International:

ACA Comments Outline Concerns with Legitimate Businesses’ Calls that are Being Blocked and Mislabeled

FCC Opens Call Blocking Comment Period; ACA Continues Advocacy for Members

FCC Sets Special Meeting on Call Blocking and Labeling Data; Share Your Insights with ACA


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

FCC Targets Illegal Robocalls with Proposed Fine for Caller ID Spoofing

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $12 million fine against an individual who reportedly used caller ID spoofing to make thousands of robocalls across several states. “The caller made unlawful, spoofed robocalls to target a community grappling with the recent murder of a local woman, threaten a journalist and newspaper, and attempt to influence a jury. Additionally, the caller made unlawful, spoofed robocalls related to political campaigns in California, Florida, and Georgia,” according to a news release from the FCC.

ACA International applauds investigations and enforcement measures against bad actors acting in violation of the law. ACA urges the FCC to continue to focus on illegal actors and to draw clear distinctions between them and legitimate business callers as outlined in recent comments to the FCC.

According to the news release from the FCC.

“The caller appears to have used an online calling platform to intentionally manipulate caller ID information so that the calls he was making appeared to come from local numbers—a technique called ‘neighbor spoofing.’”

The robocall campaigns included:

  • “California – The caller apparently made 1,496 spoofed robocalls in May 2018 about the state’s U.S. Senate primary. Among other things, the calls attacked the incumbent U.S. Senator’s Jewish heritage using an anti-Semitic trope accusing her of dual loyalties.
  • Florida – The caller apparently made 766 spoofed robocalls in October 2018 to make racist attacks about a Florida gubernatorial candidate. The robocalls falsely claimed to be from the candidate and used “a caricature of a black dialect” with jungle background noises.
  • Georgia—The caller apparently made 583 spoofed robocalls in November 2018 to make racist calls attacking a Georgia gubernatorial candidate. The calls pretended to be from Oprah Winfrey and concerned a racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
  • Idaho – The caller apparently made 750 spoofed robocalls in September 2018 to residents of Sandpoint, Idaho. The calls attacked the local newspaper, the Sandpoint Reader, and its publisher, after the paper had exposed the identity of the caller as the robocaller involved in other calling campaigns. The calls in Sandpoint identified the publisher by name and threateningly called on residents to “Burn out the cancer.”
  • Iowa – The caller apparently made 827 spoofed robocalls in August 2018 following the murder of a local college student and the arrest of an illegal alien from Mexico for the crime. The calls were directed at Brooklyn, Iowa residents and used the town’s local phone number code information. The calls talked about a “brown horde” or “savages” and said the murder victim would have said to “Kill them all.” Those who received these calls included the victim’s family members.
  • Virginia – The caller apparently made 2,023 spoofed robocalls in November and December 2018 to residents of Charlottesville, Virginia during the trial of James Fields who was charged with murdering Heather Heyer by driving an automobile into a crowd of protesters. The calls articulated a racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, which blamed local officials for the crime. The timing of the calls suggests an attempt by the caller to influence the jury. The judge questioned the jurors about the robocalls and explicitly instructed the jury pool to ignore the robocalls.”

When fraudulent callers use spoofing to deliberately falsify the information on the recipient’s caller ID and disguise their identity, as described by the FCC, consumers are harmed.

In the investigation and Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) announced by the FCC Jan. 30, it reports the individual violated the Truth in Caller ID Act, which “prohibits manipulating caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks approved the NAL Jan. 30, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissenting.

“There has been an exponential increase in these nuisance calls. Everyone with a phone knows that. It’s time for this agency to respond in kind by stepping up our own fines. There is nothing in the law that stops us from doing so,” Rosenworcel said in a statement on the fine. “In fact, in the report accompanying the just-passed bipartisan TRACED Act, Congress made abundantly clear that ‘to combat robocalls, stronger penalties are needed.’” “…Because we fail to do so, I dissent.”

Commissioner O’Rielly approved the NAL following removal of some language.

“I have previously taken a slightly different approach from my colleagues when it comes to interpreting the Truth in Caller ID Act’s anti-spoofing provisions,” O’Rielly said. “In my opinion, the text specifically requires evidence of subjective intent to cause harm.  In other words, a negligence standard does not cut it, when Congress specifically indicated that there must be ‘intent.’”

The individual subject to the proposed fine can respond to the NAL before the FCC will act to resolve the matter.

ACA continues to seek data from members to inform the FCC of the impact of current call blocking efforts that have not properly differentiated between bad actors and legitimate callers. ACA will be filing reply comments to the FCC with some additional information about industry harm as a result of overbroad blocking efforts.

ACA also urges the FCC to clarify that voice service providers may no longer rely on “reasonable analytics” to block “unwanted robocalls” on an opt-out basis and  require voice service providers to give notice when they place a derogatory label on a business’s outbound calling number which would be consistent with the TRACED Act now signed into law. One year after enactment of the TRACED Act, it is required that robocall blocking services include transparency and effective redress options for consumers and callers.

The FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee will consider a recommendation on the effectiveness of call blocking tools during a special meeting Feb. 13.

Related content from ACA International:

ACA Comments Outline Concerns with Legitimate Businesses’ Calls that are Being Blocked and Mislabeled

FCC Opens Call Blocking Comment Period; ACA Continues Advocacy for Members

FCC Sets Special Meeting on Call Blocking and Labeling Data; Share Your Insights with ACA


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

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