FTC to announce plan to crack down on robocalls

CHICAGO — The Federal Trade Commission, along with local, state and other federal law enforcement, are announcing a crackdown on telemarketers. They are calling it "Operation Call it Quits."

The FTC's plan is to put the squeeze on more than 1 billion illegal robocalls in an attempt to at least reduce the number of harassing and illegal calls coming through.

Professor Robert Sloan, an author and computer science department head at the University of Illinois at Chicago said in order to be called by these recorded devices, people have to have given consent preciously.

"None of us have consented to the calls about fixing our Medicare card, customer services, etcetera," he said. "That’s why most of these are illegal."

Last year the FTC fielded 3.8 million complaints about robocalls.

Illinois ranked No. 11 out of all 50 states with 252,935 complaints on the books.

Sloan said that’s only counting the people who complain. Most people don’t complain. They might simply subscribe to the government established “do not call list.”

There are currently 235 million phone numbers on that registry — and over 10 million of them are from Illinois.

The calls people get range from topics such as, “How to reduce your debt” to claiming lottery prizes and sweepstakes.

The calls are not always committing fraud. The fact that the robocalls are placed without consent is crime enough, according to the FTC.

“The one catch is the majority of them are overseas. It’s a lot harder to arrest the spammer who’s in the middle of Russia than the spammer who is in the middle of Chicago or Indianapolis,” Sloan said.

On Tuesday, the director for the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC will be in Chicago to make the national announcement. He will be joined by Indiana’s attorney general.

A crackdown on robocalls will likely come in the form of fines and shutdowns.

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