If you’re interested in a recap on what federal and state enforcement are doing to better protect consumers from unlawful robocalls, there’s been a flurry of recent activity that is worthy of bearing notice.
The FCC has signed a Memoranda of Understanding between state robocall investigators and the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau that establishes information sharing and cooperation in the investigation of robocall scam campaigns. At the time of this article, now 43 states are part of this MOU with the FCC.
As an example of the power of this joint investigation and enforcement effort, July 7th 2022 is a date to circle on your calendars. On that date, the FCC and the Attorney General of the State of Ohio announced a coordinated enforcement initiative against 22 defendants responsible for billions of illegal auto warranty robocalls. Specifically, the FCC issued cease and desist letters to eight VOIP providers with an overlapping set of providers identified by the Ohio AG’s case – Call Pipe, Fugle Telecom, Geist Telecom, Global Lynks, Mobi Telecom, South Dakota Telecom, SipKonnect, and Virtual Telecom. This follows on the heels of cease and desist letters earlier this year to Airespring, Hello Hello Miami, thinQ in March and Great Choice Telecom and TCA VOIP in February as well as fourteen such letters in 2021.
These cease and desist letters were accompanied by a public notice to all U.S. based telecommunication providers that they may block these calls without liability. This is the first time these cease and desist letters included a public notice to all providers with instructions which shifts some of the burden of robocall mitigation to all telecommunication providers to assist in the overall mitigation beyond the eight providers receiving the cease and desist letters.
The eight named providers were given 48 hours to notify the Bureau and Traceback Consortium of what steps they were taking to mitigate these calls and 14 days to notify the Bureau and Traceback Consortium of what steps they have taken to prevent customers from using these networks to transmit illegal robocalls. If they fail to comply with these requirements, “[they] may be removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database, obligating all other providers to cease carrying any traffic from that Originating Provider.” Removal from the Robocall Mitigation Database is a severe penalty if you read behind the lines – it essentially means that provider is out of the voice communications business. You can further absorb the increased severity of the latest round of cease and desist letters as they include this specific verbiage: “Failure to act within the deadlines authorizes U.S.-based voice service providers to block ALL call traffic transmitting from your network, permanently.”
Additionally, these cease and desist letters directly advise the eight recipients that “if you.. knowingly or negligently continue to originate unlawful robocall campaigns.. we may find that your certification in the Robocall Mitigation Database is deficient and direct the removal of your certification from the database.”
These letters indicate that simply filing a robocall mitigation plan is insufficient to mitigate the potential risk that the entire network found to be harboring unlawful robocalls could swiftly end up at the brink of extinction. There is certainly additional color behind these recent actions, but if you were to open one of the cease and desist letters, such as the one issued to Fugle Telecom references warranty calls in January 2022 and February 2022 which is two months of implied operations. However, it is indicated that Fugle was “not responsive” to traceback requests which suggests they took zero action to stem the volume of these calls and thus required escalation to curtail the activity by communicating to downstream networks. Opening another of the letters, such as the one to SipKonnect shows 10 tracebacks over 5 months from January through May for the “National Auto Protection” customer and “Auto Warranty Extend” campaign and lacks the “non responsive” result for the traceback. Assuming this represents the full extent of awareness of these providers of the shadow of potential enforcement, they had months upon months to take the tracebacks seriously and make a conscious effort to protect their networks from the escalation to the cease-and-desist letters and public notice in July.
YouMail is pleased to provide the first report card on the battle against warranty robocalls to the public and how far we have come since Summer 2021.
The following chart shows daily warranty robocalls received by the public – by and large the consumers on the big three mobile networks of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile but representing over one hundred mobile networks in the U.S. These are the calls ringing our phones and getting through any safeguards the mobile network operators have in place that might filter them out when the warranty callers cycle through originating phone numbers in an attempt to defeat any network analytics that see an individual originating phone number misbehaving or receiving consumer complaints on what it doing.
U.S. Daily Warranty Robocalls
If we look back just a year ago to last June through October, the different colors in the above chart represent nearly 20 distinct warranty robocall campaigns targeting consumers, where the yellow and teal colors in those charts were the most prolific. As of June 2022, significant progress had already been made by efforts to curtail these calls and had reduced their volumes from nearly 30 million per day prior to November 2021 down to approximately 5 million per day as of June 2022 which impressive industry-wide mitigation.
What’s the early read on the July 7th action? For that we need to drill into what was happening to the public on warranty calls for the past 30 days.
Predominantly we can see that the most significant call warranty call volume came from two campaigns in the above charts – the yellow campaign and the teal campaign.
The yellow campaign had been playing this script to the public back before even 2019.
We’ve been trying to reach you concerning your car’s extended warranty. You should have received something in the mail about your car’s extended warranty since we have not gotten a response. We are giving you a final courtesy call before we close out your file… [truncated]
The teal campaign additionally has origins in 2019 and identifies itself as “Dealer Servicing”.
Hi, this is [NAME] from Dealer Servicing. Your file just came across my desk and it looks like your vehicle may be at risk of losing coverage. In order to prevent your extended warranty from expiring, I am giving you a courtesy follow-up call before I close out your file.. [truncated].
As a background in warranty robocalls, you’ll notice these calls essentially take the weekends off as well as U.S. holidays such as the Fourth of July. We’ve only had eight business days since the July 7th action but we can see these robocall operations, which typically delivered calls to consumers on any weekday that was not a holiday both had two final bursts before apparently dying out – the teal Dealer Servicing campaign with some activity on July 11 and then July 13 and the yellow Something In The Mail campaign with a single day of activity on July 13. On Friday, July 8th, the day after the enforcement action was announced, YouMail saw a sudden drop in call volume, suggesting an immediate reaction to the enforcement actions.
It’s still early, but if the operations were still going, we would have expected to see these auto warranty campaigns continue at their normal volume on July 14 and onward but instead it appears the public is no longer receiving these calls as of July 18th. There are still warranty robocalls out there but they are relatively minor in terms of overall volume relative to the massive operation that has been uprooted through the coordinated efforts over the past nine months. We have gone from nearly 30 million warranty calls per day that were defeating network filtering down to under 1 million warranty calls per day now apparently being received by consumers.
Let’s hope it stays this way.
If you are a provider and you’re unsure about your robocall mitigation plan and if it is effectively mitigating unlawful robocalls, don’t hesitate to reach out to the YouMail Protective Services Team. Nobody answers more calls across more networks in the U.S. and has more advanced models to identify and mitigate unlawful robocalls and can ensure your compliance with regulatory mandates to know-your-customers, know-your-traffic and effectively mitigate unlawful robocalls. The YouMail Threat Lab and Investigations Team are actively working to analyze and track over a thousand robocall campaigns active every month which ensures we are finding all the needles in the haystack in both the public telephone network but also originating or transiting hundreds of provider networks every month.
YouMail protects consumers, enterprises, and carriers from harmful phone calls. YouMail powers America’s most robust telephone sensor network in identifying and providing zero-hour protection against illegal calling campaigns and cyberattacks. This network empowers YouMail Protective Services to protect consumer-facing enterprises by shutting down imposter traffic that can lead to financial or brand damage and protects voice and service providers with robocall mitigation services that help stop bad traffic originating, traversing, or terminating on their networks.