‘Operation Call it Quits’ focuses on unwanted calls

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky has joined in a nationwide effort that started Tuesday to crack down on illegal scam phone calls.


“Operation Call it Quits” includes federal, state and local enforcement actions against illegal scam call operations across the U.S. and an educational campaign to help citizens stop unwanted calls, led by the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general.


“Nearly 100 scam call operations from across the country, which are responsible for more than 1 billion scam calls, have now had law enforcement actions taken against them and are being shut down,” said Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear. “Today is a victory for Kentuckians who want to see more being done to stop the barrage of illegal scam calls.”


The operation includes four new cases and three new settlements from the FTC, bringing the FTC’s total actions against illegal robocallers and Do Not Call Registry violators to 145, and 87 enforcement actions from other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. 


As part of the operation, the Office of the Attorney General is providing tips to help Kentuckians properly respond to and avoid scam calls. Beshear said educating consumers, especially seniors, about robocall scams is the most effective way to protect Kentuckians from falling victim to scams. The tips include:


--Don’t rely on Caller ID: Scammers may call from out-of-state, but use technology to “spoof” local phone numbers to try and trick Kentuckians into answering.


--Don’t Answer: The best way to avoid scams and robocalls is to not answer calls from unknown phone numbers. If it is important, the caller will leave a message and you can call them back.


--Hang up on prerecorded messages: If you do answer the phone and hear a prerecorded message, hang up; it is likely a scam call. If you press any numbers or participate in the call in any way, you might become a target for more calls.


--Use call-blocking technology: Call-blocking technology offered through your phone carrier, internet service provider, call-blocking devices or downloadable apps can help stop most scam calls. 


The four new FTC complaints announced Tuesday include allegations against:


First Choice Horizon LLC, who are accused of running a maze of interrelated operations that used illegal robocalls to contact financially distressed consumers with offers of bogus credit card interest rate reduction services. The case is pending in a Florida court, where company assets have been frozen and a receiver appointed. 


8 Figure Dream Lifestyle, who allegedly used a combination of illegal telemarketing robocalls, live telephone calls, text messaging, internet ads, emails, social media and live events to market and sell consumers fraudulent money-making opportunities. A California court granted the FTC’s request for a restraining order, including an asset freeze.


Derek Jason Bartoli, according to the FTC, is the alleged developer and provider of a computer-based telephone-dialing platform, known as an autodialer, which he used to blast out millions of illegal robocalls and calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry. The complaint claims Bartoli, in the last six months of 2017 alone, sent over 57 million calls and initiated millions of calls using spoofed caller IDs. The proposed court order settling the charges bans Bartoli from illegal robocall practices and imposes a $2.1 million civil penalty, which has been suspended.


Media Mix 365, LLC.  The complaint alleges the company and its owners made illegal calls to develop leads for home solar energy companies. The defendants allegedly called one number more than 1,000 times in a single year. The proposed court order settling the charges permanently bans the defendants, Nicholas and Nicole Long, from calling phone numbers listed on the DNC Registry and from robocalling. The order imposes a $7.6 million civil penalty, which will be suspended upon payment of $264,000.


In addition to federal regulations, legislation passed the General Assembly to deal with the issue.  Sponsored by State Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville,
House Bill 84 prohibits telephone solicitations that misrepresent the name or telephone number in caller identification services, known as “spoofing.” It increases fines for second offenses and allow for civil lawsuits against violators.  Penalties include fines of up to $5,000 and up five years in prison for repeated violations.

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