On October 27, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission imposed a forfeiture of $37,525,000 on an Arizona-based telemarketing company for making 2,341,125 spoofed calls to consumers in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act, which prohibits individuals from falsifying or misrepresenting caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
The FCC found that Affordable Enterprises of Arizona, LLC had made over two million live spoofed telemarketing calls to Arizona consumers during a 14-month period between 2016 and 2017. According to the FCC, Affordable manipulated the caller ID information so that many calls appeared to come from consumers who were unconnected with the company. Calls also appeared to come from unassigned phone numbers and numbers assigned to pre-paid “burner” phones that Affordable purchased (but to which the company did not add minutes). In each case, the caller ID was spoofed, and consumers were unable to identify from the caller ID that the call was from Affordable.
In assessing the forfeiture amount, the FCC took into consideration various factors, including: Affordable’s knowing falsification of the caller ID information; the company’s knowledge that its use of expired prepaid numbers as the caller ID was misleading; its failure to display a business name or other identifying information on the caller ID as required for telemarketers. and; evidence that Affordable instructed employees to hang up on complaining customers. The FCC found that Affordable intended to injure consumers within the meaning of the Truth in Caller ID Act, and that, despite Affordable’s arguments that it lacked actual knowledge or fraudulent intent, the full amount of the forfeiture was warranted.
In a statement accompanying the forfeiture order, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated that the telemarketing scheme carried out by Affordable “was large scale and deliberate in its intent . . . to display misleading and inaccurate caller ID information. Affordable clearly intended to obscure its identity, evade detection, and prevent consumers from opting out of future calls.”