We've been trying to reach you concerning your car's extended warranty.
If you immediately felt frustrated upon reading those words, you're not alone. The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it is going to block a massive auto warranty robocall scam campaign, and there's little question why.
People have been complaining to the FCC more about these warranty robocalls over the past two years than any other topic. These scam calls are in both English and Spanish, and the FCC said the people responsible are still sending out millions of illegal calls every day.
"We are not going to tolerate robocall scammers or those that help make their scams possible," FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. "Consumers are out of patience and I'm right there with them."
The FCC's new order forces all U.S. voice service providers to "take all necessary steps" to make sure robocall traffic doesn't reach our cellphones. If they can't do that, the providers have to tell the FCC what steps they're taking to mitigate the traffic. If the FCC thinks that the voice service provider isn't doing enough to stop the calls, the companies "may be deemed to have knowingly and willfully engaged in transmitting unlawful robocalls," it could force other providers to block traffic from the ineffective voice service provider.
The FCC named the two main people it said are responsible for these scam calls, Roy Cox, Jr., and Aaron Michael Jones, and said their work was part of the "Cox/Jones/Sumco Panama Operation." The FCC said the operation has been making scam calls since at least 2018. The Cox/Jones/Sumco Panama Operation ramped up operations in late 2020, when it purchased lists of nearly 500,000 numbers from at least 229 area codes so that it could make its calls appear to come from a local number. The FCC said Cox has already entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to a permanent ban on all telemarketing activities. On top of the new order issued last week, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau and the Ohio Attorney General are also taking action against the Sumco Panama Operation.
The FCC offers a few basic tips to protect yourself if you do answer a call from someone you don't know about auto warranties. Don't provide any personal information when someone calls you unexpectedly, and be aware that scammers might have some real information about you or your car that can make you think they're legitimate. To be sure that you're dealing with the organization you think you are, hang up and call the company using a phone number from previous legit interaction with them (like a bill) or one you find on their website.
American telephone usage has changed over the years. A 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than 80 percent of Americans no longer answer phone calls from numbers they don't recognize. Pew didn't assign any particular cause to this behavior, but the first potential reason cited in the announcement was that people might be "overwhelmed by robocalls."
Complaints about auto warranty scam calls resulted in over 1000 complaints each month last year, other than four dips into three-digit territory in July, August, November, and December. Consumers complained to the FCC about scams regarding credit cards, insurance or health care, legal issues, and phishing less than 400 times each throughout 2021, except for March, when there were around 450 complaints about phishing. In 2020, people filed more complaints about auto warranty scam calls than the other four categories put together. If you would like to file your own complaint, visit the FCC's Consumer Complaint Center.