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FCC considering $300M fine for auto-warranty scammers

Commissioner of Federal Communications Commission Jessica Rosenworcel said auto-warranty robocalls have been reduced by 99% since the FCC directed phone companies to block spammers. File Photo by Alex Wong/UPI
Commissioner of Federal Communications Commission Jessica Rosenworcel said auto-warranty robocalls have been reduced by 99% since the FCC directed phone companies to block spammers. File Photo by Alex Wong/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- People who picked up the phone and heard "We've been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty" may have been one of 550 million targets in a robocall scam.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering slapping two scammers with its largest fine in agency history for allegedly spamming more than 5 billion calls.

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On Thursday, the FCC proposed a $299.9 million fine for Roy Cox Jr. and Michael Aaron Jones, who robocalled more than 550 million people offering misleading vehicle warranty services.

The commission alleges that Cox and Jones, as part of Cox/Jones Enterprise, violated federal anti-robocalling and spoofing laws by placing the robocalls.

RELATED FCC orders phone companies to block student loan scam robocalls

They made more than 5 billion calls to more than 550 million people in the span of just three months in 2021, the FCC said. They had been operating since 2018 and it is unknown how many robocalls were made in total.

"The robocallers met the agency's criteria for egregious violations and thus deserved a substantially escalated proposed fine," an FCC news release said.

People who received the calls said they were "Incessant" and they felt harassed.

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The calls appeared from various U.S. numbers, though many calls actually originated outside the United States.

Some calls were placed to healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic from what appeared to be hospital phone numbers. This resulted in recipients calling hospitals to complain.

The calls were meant to sell contracts for vehicle services "deceptively marketed as car warranties."

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The FCC will allow Cox and Jones to respond and submit evidence before taking further action.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the commission has reduced auto warranty robocalls by 99% since directing phone companies to block the calls. Earlier this month, the FCC added a company responsible for about 40% of all student-loan spam calls to the list of callers to block.

"Next, I want us to move to a forfeiture order and I hope that Congress will give us the authority to go to court and directly collect these fines from these bad actors," Rosenworcel said.

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