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FCC Cracks Down on Extended Car Warranty Robocalls

Voice service providers ordered to block traffic from group accused of making billions of illegal calls

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Good news: You now may be at least slightly less likely to get another robocall suggesting you renew the service warranty on your car.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered all U.S.-based voice service providers to stop transmitting robocalls from a group the agency says has made more than 8 billion illegal calls hawking auto warranty renewals since 2018.

Such prolific robocallers made extended vehicle warranty calls the number 1 source of consumer complaints to the FCC in 2021. Americans received 50.5 billion automated calls overall last year, according to YouMail, a company that develops robocall-blocking software.

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The FCC has ordered all voice service providers to immediately terminate illegal traffic originating with the group of eight individuals and associated companies based in California, Texas and international locations.

It’s illegal in most cases for an individual or company to send you a recorded message unless you have given them written permission to contact you in this way, according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules. Among the few exceptions are political calls about candidates running for office and charities asking for donations.

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Consumers 'bombarded'

The robocalls cited by the FCC consist of prerecorded messages that begin with: “This is an urgent message for the vehicle owner. We’ve been trying to reach you concerning your car’s extended warranty.” They continue, “Since we have not gotten a response, we are giving you a final courtesy call before we close out your file.” The message then prompts the consumer to press 1 to speak with a “warranty specialist.”

If you press 1, you are transferred to either a live person or a voice recognition system that asks you questions about your vehicle to gauge your interest in purchasing a vehicle service contract — pitching it as a legitimate service warranty, which it’s not, according to a lawsuit against the suspected scammers filed earlier this month by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Prospective buyers are typically transferred again to an “authorized agent” or some such for payment.

The lawsuit alleges that this group “bombarded Ohio residents with at least 800 million illegal robocalls from July 2018 through at least July 2021” and stole more than $12.9 million from them.

Car warranty scammers are “selling in general very cheap/useless extended warranties” in an effort to “steal your money or your identity,” says Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail.

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The scheme relies on “neighbor spoofing,” in which scammers use tech tools to make a target’s caller ID display a number with a local area code, to make it more likely the target will answer. The group in this case also disregarded the federal prohibition on calling numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry and ignored requests to stop calling, according to the Ohio lawsuit.

One woman cited in the suit said in a complaint to the FTC that she received repeated calls “while I’m at work, while I’m at church, while on calls with other people,” despite signing up for the Do Not Call Registry and never having had a warranty on her car. The callers “have been rude and yell at me,” she said.

Fighting back

The FCC has been more aggressively cracking down on robocallers in recent years as the call volume has spiked.

In February, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed requiring a consumer’s consent to receive ringless voicemails (messages that are left in voice mailboxes without causing phones to ring). And in May the agency ordered gateway providers — services that transfer international calls to U.S. carriers — to stop transmitting robocalls from overseas and to help the FCC track their origins.

Meanwhile, the flood of unwanted calls continues: U.S. consumers received 4.3 billion of them in June, according to YouMail.

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