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FCC cracks down on vehicle warranty robocalls

The ten most dreaded words in the English language: “We are trying to reach you about your vehicle warranty.” But the Federal Communications Commission says it has identified the people behind more than 8 billion of those auto warranty scam calls in the past several years and has ordered communications service providers to stop carrying their call traffic.

“Now that U.S. voice service providers know the individuals and entities associated with this scheme, the Enforcement Bureau will closely monitor voice service providers’ compliance with this order and take appropriate enforcement action as necessary,” said Acting FCC
Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal.

The FCC identified Roy Cox, Jr. of Tustin, CA, Aaron Michael Jones of Orange County, CA; their Sumco Panama and related entities; and around a dozen domestic and international associates in California, Texas, Panama and Hungary, as being responsible for more than 8 billion spam robocalls about vehicle warranties since at least 2018. The robocall operation “purchased nearly 500,000 numbers from at least 229 area codes in November and December 2020 apparently to make the calls appear to consumers as if they were originating locally,” the FCC said in its enforcement order.

The robocalls—familiar to nearly anyone with a phone number—consist of prerecorded messages urging customers to follow prompts in order to speak with a “warranty specialist” about reinstating or extending a car warranty. According to the FCC, scam robocalls about auto warranties have prompted more consumer complaints than any other type of unwanted call, in each of the last two years. The calls could be used for getting personal or financial information for fraud purposes, convincing recipients to make a payment or to gather information about which phone numbers are active, according to the agency, which has a specific website warning consumers about vehicle warranty robocall scams.

“We are not going to tolerate robocall scammers or those that help make their scams possible,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Consumers are out of patience and I’m right there with them.”

Industry members who are part of the Traceback Consortium of US Telecom helped identify the origination of the calls and intermediate providers who are carrying the illegal robocall traffic.

As of July 2020, the FCC has allowed voice service providers to block traffic from other providers who have been warned by the agency that they are transmitting suspect robocalls. In early July of this year, it released a public notice about this particular robocall organization and sent cease-and-desist letters to eight originating providers asking them to investigate and stop carrying these robocalls. Those eight providers didn’t respond to the FCC, and now the agency is calling on voice providers to quit carrying their traffic.

The FCC also said in that public notice that despite an agreement by Cox to not engage in telemarketing, “recent tracebacks show
that the Cox/Jones/Sumco Panama Operation is still generating millions of apparently unlawful calls to consumers on a daily basis,” prompting the commission’s action.


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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