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Entries in Robocalls (5)

Thursday
Feb072013

Lawsuit Accuses Romney Supporters of Illegal Robocalls During Election

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(DENVER) -- A lawsuit seeking federal class-action status in Colorado is accusing an Arizona non-profit of conducting illegal robocalls to campaign for Mitt Romney during the presidential election.

Marlo Edholm, 34, filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Denver on Monday against Americans for Responsible Leadership, a non-profit group in Arizona.

Edholm, a recent nursing school graduate from Denver, said she received at least five illegal robocalls to her cellphone from the group.

She said the calls are a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, according to the lawsuit.  The law prohibits unsolicited robocalls to cellphones, which can cost the telephone call recipient money for the minutes used.

Americans for Responsible Leadership spent millions of dollars last year supporting Republican candidates, including presidential candidate Romney and opposing ballot initiatives in Arizona.

The group's stated purpose on its website is to "promote the general welfare of the citizens of the United States of America by educating the public about concepts that advance government accountability, transparency, ethics and related public policy issues."

In January, ProPublica said it obtained Americans for Responsible Leadership's application to the IRS for tax-exempt status, which stated that it would not "spend any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any person to any Federal, state, or local public office or to an office in a political organization."

Multiple calls to the three men who registered Americans for Responsible Leadership with the Internal Revenue Service were not returned.

"The annoyance is getting calls that you haven't asked to receive and you're getting charged for them," said Joseph Mellon, an attorney for Edholm.

On Sept. 11, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission published an enforcement advisory in light of the 2012 election season.  The advisory reminded campaigns and consumers that pre-recorded voice messages and auto-dialed calls to cellphones and other mobile services, including paging services, are prohibited.  The two exceptions are if the calls are made for emergency purposes or with prior express consent.

Mellon said he believes groups representing either party may have used robocalling to campaign during the last election.

"This is not a partisan issue," he said.

He added that his client was registered to vote, but he is not sure how she may have been targeted to receive a call.

"She doesn't fit the profile of a politically active type of person," he said.

According to the court case, the calls Edholm received were said to be from two people, "Olivia" and "Pam," who stated they represented Americans for Responsible Leadership.

On Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, she received this pre-recorded message on her cellphone, according to the court document:

"Hello, my name Olivia and I'm a volunteer with Americans for Responsible Leadership.  I'm calling because I'm worried about our future.  Twenty-three million Americans are out of work, we're sixteen trillion dollars in debt, and we borrow four billion dollars a day.  It's disappointing, but President Obama's policies haven't worked.  That's why I encourage you to vote for Mitt Romney.  He has real world business experience and knows how to fix the economy.  He can break through the partisan gridlock in Washington because as Governor of Massachusetts, he worked with a legislature that was 90 percent Democrat to reduce the state's debt.  Thank you very much for your time.  Paid for by Americans for Responsible Leadership and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.  www.ARL-national.org."

Mellon said he hopes to learn from the discovery process how many calls were made to cellphones.

If the court finds the group conducted illegal robocalls, the lawsuit states that Edholm "and the other members of the proposed class are entitled to statutory damages of $500.00 for each unlawful robocall and an injunction prohibiting ARL from engaging in similar conduct in the future."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Oct202012

FTC Enlists Consumers to Help Stop ‘Robocalls’

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Trade Commission  is looking for tech-savvy individuals to come up with a product to thwart so-called “robocalls” from harassing helpless citizens.

In fact, the FTC, which oversees the Federal Do Not Call list (which has a whopping 217 million people on it), is so frustrated that it’s offering a $50,000 prize for the best technical solution to stop those unwanted calls.

Between October 2011 and September 2012, the FTC received 2,260,021 robocall-related complaints, said spokesperson Cheryl Hackley.

“We’re trying to tap into the technological expertise and innovation that’s out there of the American public,” said Kari Daffan, a staff attorney with the FTC, adding that there’s “nothing that currently exists in the marketplace.”

Robocalls typically originate overseas and are illegal under the 2009 Telemarketing Sales Rule, which stipulates that a consumer must give written permission to receive a call from that entity.

“That doesn’t happen too much, if ever,” said Daffan. “The vast majority of these calls are just scam artists. They’re just making a buck, and they often do it off of the most vulnerable consumers, like the elderly or those who do have debt.”

Not only will solvers get a cash prize, but they can also retain intellectual property rights to their idea. Companies with more than 10 employees are able to compete for the FTC’s Commission Technology Achievement Award. (No cash prize, alas). The agency, in turn, will have the right to feature the solution’s name, text description and images on its website.

The “FTC Robocall Challenge” opens to the public on Oct. 25 and closes Jan. 17, 2013. The winner will be announced in April.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul162012

Top 3 Ways to Combat Robocalls

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ever since the Federal Trade Commission made it illegal for companies to try to sell you something via robocall, it seems like there have been more calls than ever. And it's not just a feeling. The FTC says it's true.

Those obnoxious, pre-recorded sales calls are on the rise. Ironically, in September 2009, the FTC ruled that companies could only sell via robocall if they had your written permission to call you. And who would give it?

So why would this strong rule hurt rather than help? The new rule drove semi- legitimate companies out and now scam companies are having a heyday. They hawk interest rate reduction plans and bogus car warranties. They are probably auto-dialing you from overseas where U.S. law enforcement can't easily touch them. Technology makes it easy for them to dial every combination of numbers so that they'll stumble upon you even if you've got an unlisted number or are on the do not call list.

The government is strategizing anew about how to solve this problem. "The FTC hears from American consumers every day about illegal robocalls and how intrusive they are," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "We're ratcheting up our efforts to stop this invasion of consumers' privacy." It's not just about privacy. It's about money. A lot of the robocalls are received on cell phone, and those calls cost minutes.

That's why the Federal Trade Commission is suggesting new strategies for consumers fed up with robocalls.

Here's the agency's three-pronged plan:

1. Don't Participate in the Phone Tree.

Hang up rather than following the robocalls phone tree instructions. You'd think you would want to speak to a live operator and give them the business about bugging you. The FTC says don't do it. By pressing "0" – or any other digit-- to speak to an operator you confirm for the robotic dialing software that yours is a real number with a warm body on the other end. You will probably get even more robocalls if you do this.

2. Block the Number Only if it's Free.

Blocking the number the robocall came from probably won't help because these illegal telemarketers know how to manipulate phone technology to make it look like they're calling from a different number than they really are. Plus, they change numbers—or fake numbers—often. So if you can block the number for free, just by changing your settings, go for it. But if your carrier is going to charge you for the service, don't bother. It probably won't help.

3. Report the Robocall.

The Federal Trade Commission chooses which cases it pursues partly based on the number of complaints it has received about them. The more the better. Be a part of the process. The FTC has fined companies a total of $41 million in 85 robocall cases. It acts when people complain. You are the first line of law enforcement. Go to www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. By the way, if you're annoyed by a robocall from a politician or pollster, stand down. Guess who makes the laws? Those automated calls are still legal.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb152012

FCC Cracks Down on 'Robocalls'

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- "Robocalls," those unsolicited, inhuman phone calls that always seem to come at the most inopportune times, may be one of the most annoying aspects of modern life.

Every night at dinnertime, marketers rev up their computers and dial countless numbers, ringing phones all over America. But as of Wednesday, after thousands of complaints, the Federal Communications Commission is going to require companies to get your expressed, written consent before they "robocall" or text you.

"Consumers who don't mind getting these calls can still get them," Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, told ABC News. "Those who don't want them don't have to."

However, there are still some loopholes. Nonprofit groups like your kid's school or your local church can still "robocall" you. So can politicians and pollsters.

Also, if companies want to go old school, they can still have real human beings call you.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

  1. Starting soon, anyone who "robocalls" you will have to give you an opportunity to opt-out of all future calls within the first two seconds of the call.
  2. Go to DoNotCall.gov and add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry requires that you re-up every five years.
  3. If you're on the National Do Not Call Registry and you're still getting called, depending on which state you're in you may be able to sue the company.
  4. Never give out your phone number on the checkout line when shopping.

Even if you take precautions, however, the truth is marketers will still try to find ways to reach you.

The government acknowledges this, but insists that Wednesday they struck a big blow against marketers, making dinner time in America much saner.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb152012

FCC to Crackdown on 'Robocalls'

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission is set to crackdown on those annoying automatically dialed or pre-recorded calls many Americans receive at home each day; tougher rules on when consumers can be called are expected to be approved on Wednesday.

The measures would give people stronger protections against these so-called "robocalls."  The aim is to end the loopholes in the "Do Not Call" legislation that was passed by Congress in 2008 with the intention of putting an end to these calls.

Under the new rules, telemarketers would have to get written permission before they could make an automated call. Currently, consumers who have business relationships with companies may be called without permission.

Robocalls from political groups and non-profit organizations such as schools would not be covered by the new FCC regulations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio