The world may be divided on most topics, but there is one thing we can all come together on: our hatred of robocalls. We've all been close to destroying our phones when the voice on the other end of a call says, "We've been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty." The FCC has implemented some regulations to try and cut down on the annoyance. Among the regulations are an end to caller ID spoofing and the Do Not Call registry. While the measures may have actually resulted in fewer deceptive calls, some still work around it.
One such pair that ignored all of the rules is John C. Spiller and Jakob A. Mears, who operated a health insurance scam ring. They operated brands such as Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, making more than 1 billion robocalls claiming to sell short term insurance options. According to the FCC's proposed fine against the duo,
The robocalls falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance companies such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group. For example, one call stated: "Are you looking for affordable health insurance with benefits from a company you know? Policies have all been reduced nationwide such as Cigna, Blue Cross, Aetna, and United just a quick phone call away. Press 3 to get connected to a licensed agent or press 7 to be added to the Do Not Call list." If they did press 3, consumers were transferred to a call center with no affiliation to the named companies, where call center representatives then would attempt to convince the consumer to purchase an insurance product sold by one of Rising Eagle's clients. Rising Eagle's largest client, Health Advisors of America, was sued by the Missouri Attorney General for telemarketing violations in February 2019.
As part of the action, the FCC will be asking for a $225 million fine. The FCC, however, does not have the authority to issue the fine on its own, so it will need to go through a process. Traditionally, an agreement is reached somewhere lower than the proposed maximum. However, the FCC is not known for success in actually collecting on its fines. According to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel,
Over the last several years the FCC has levied hundreds of millions in fines against robocallers just like the folks we have here today. But so far collections on these eye-popping fines have netted next to nothing. In fact, it was last year that The Wall Street Journal did the math and found that we had collected no more than $6,790 on hundreds of millions in fines. Why? Well, one reason is that the FCC looks to the Department of Justice to collect on the agency's fines against robocallers. We need them to help. So when they don't get involved-as here-that's not a good sign.
So, do these policies work? For some, it may simply be the fear of any retribution that stops them from acting. For others, it appears the knowledge that nothing will happen that keeps the calls coming.