US fines man $9.9 million for thousands of disturbing robocalls

Original Source: Bleeping Computer

A U.S. federal court has issued a $9,918,000 penalty and an injunction against an individual named Scott Rhodes for making thousands of "spoofed" robocalls to consumers across the country.

Robocalls are automated phone calls that use automated dialing software to deliver a pre-recorded message to many recipients.

Though they have legitimate uses, including sales, public service announcements, charity requests, and political campaigns, threat actors have exploited them to spread scams or misinformation, leading to annoyance and losses.

After many cases of abuse, like fake IRS tax collection warnings, the authorities in the U.S. have enacted laws and regulations, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), to restrict the use of robocall technology without the recipient's consent.

Spoofing is a technique often combined with robocalling to falsify the caller ID displayed on the recipient's device, hiding the caller's true identity while making the call appear local or coming from a reputable or government organization.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) announcement calls Rhodes' actions "illegal and malicious," highlighting the man's preference for launching robocall campaigns against specific regions with inflammatory and disturbing messages.

"For example, hundreds of the spoofed robocalls targeted residents of the Brooklyn, Iowa, area in the aftermath of a local woman's murder," reads the U.S. DoJ announcement.

"Similarly, more than 2,000 of the spoofed robocalls targeted residents of Charlottesville, Virginia, during the investigation and prosecution of James Alex Fields Jr. for killing one woman and injuring dozens during the "Unite the Right" rally in August 2017."

Some people who received these calls reported this harassment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the authorities traced the activity to Rhodes, a resident of Idaho and Montana.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued Rhodes in September 2021, and a summary judgment motion was granted in October 2023.

Today, a federal court in Montana fined Rhodes with a $9.9 million penalty and an injunction against future violations of the Truth in Caller ID Act and Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

In the past few years, the authorities in the U.S. have imposed very hefty fines against robocallers.

In August 2023, the FCC announced a record-breaking fine of $300 million for an international network of companies that had placed over five billion robocalls.

In February 2022, the FCC proposed that a health insurance robocaller be fined $45 million for more than 500,000 unlawful robocalls.

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Author: Bill Toulas

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