FCC fines telemarketers a record $225 million for making 1 billion robocalls in 5 months

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FCC fines telemarketers a record $225 million for making 1 billion robocalls in 5 months
The FCC also announced the creation of a task force to address robocalling.Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock
  • The FCC issued its largest fine ever against two robocallers who operated a health-insurance scam.
  • The agency issued a $225 million fine.
  • The telemarketers made roughly 1 billion robocalls in less than five months, the FCC said.

Robocalling is back on the rise after slowing down for much of the pandemic. But two prolific telemarketers are out of the picture this year following an investigation by the US Federal Communications Commission that led to the biggest fine in the regulator's history.

The FCC on Wednesday fined Texas-based telemarketers John Spiller and Jakob Mears $225 million after finding that their companies placed roughly 1 billion robocalls over a period of less than five months in early 2019, according to a press release. The fine was first proposed in June 2020.

Under business names including Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, Spiller and Mears placed calls falsely claiming to offer short-term health insurance plans from companies like Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. According to the FCC, Rising Eagle accounted for "a large portion" of health insurance-related robocall traffic.

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Spiller admitted to placing millions of calls per day and intentionally calling people on the Do Not Call list, the FCC said. According to the commission, many of the telemarketers' calls were spoofed - meaning they misrepresented caller ID information - which is against the law.

Although robocalling slowed down for much of the pandemic, it's back to pre-pandemic levels, according to data from spam-blocking service YouMail. Americans received roughly 4.6 billion robocalls in February, the most since February 2020.

Along with leveling the largest fine in commission history, the FCC also announced it would establish a Robocall Response Team to address the growing issue.

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