The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday proposed a record-breaking fine of nearly $300 million for an alleged robocall scheme that involved billions of calls about auto warranties.
The agency said its proposed $299.997 million fine follows the largest robocall operation the FCC has ever investigated, alleging Roy Cox Jr., and Michael Aaron Jones made more than 5 billion robocalls designed to sell vehicle service contracts deceptively marketed as car warranties.
“Maybe it happened to you this last year,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “You picked up the phone and someone you don’t know, who you didn’t ask to call, tells you they have been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty. It’s a scam.”
The commission claimed the two individuals, through their Sumco Panama company, violated federal anti-robocalling and spoofing laws.
The pair allegedly began making the calls as early as 2018, placing 5.19 billion calls to 550 million phone numbers between January 2021 and March 2021.
The individuals allegedly spoofed the phone numbers of hospitals for some of the calls, which were placed during the pandemic, leading confused people to call the hospitals to complain. Other alleged calls originated from foreign entities but were spoofed to make the caller ID appear local to the U.S.
“The calls then misrepresented the product or service being offered and made false or misleading statements to induce call recipients to purchase goods or services,” the FCC said.
Cox and Jones could not be reached for comment.
The FCC said it took initial action against the operation in July by directing U.S.-based voice service providers to stop carrying traffic related to the auto warranty scam calls, an action the agency said led to a massive drop in volume.
“We will be relentless in pursing the groups behind these schemes by limiting their access to U.S. communications networks and holding them to account for their conduct,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal said in a statement.