The Justice Department Tuesday filed lawsuits against five U.S. companies and three individuals alleging they were responsible for hundreds of millions of robocalls that scammed Americans out of “massive financial losses.”
The department says the groups used fake numbers to imitate government agencies like the IRS or Social Security Administration. Victims would be told they face immediate deportation or owe thousands of dollars to the U.S. government and pressured into transferring money to avoid legal action.
One of the companies allegedly carried 720 million calls during a 23-day period and more than 425 million of those calls were less than one second in duration, according to the Justice Department.
Assistant Attorney General Jody H. Hunt of Justice Department’s Civil Division told reporters the calls are not just an annoyance, but a “serious problem” for the elderly and vulnerable.
“Each year, fraudsters steal hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers,” Mr. Hunt said in a conference call with reporters.
The department is seeking court approval to stop the groups from making ongoing calls. The companies include two Arizona-based businesses and three Long Island, New York operators, which were operated out of residential addresses.
The Arizona defendants are TollFreeDeals.com, SIP retail and their owner-operators, Nicholas and Natasha Palumbo. The New York defendants are Global Voicecom Inc., Global Telecommunication Services Inc., Kat Telecom Inc., and their owner-operator John Kahen of Great Neck, New York.
Mr. Hunt said the groups originated in Indiana and the Justice Department is working with authorities in that country.
Department officials say the companies served as “gateways” for fraudulent call operators and collect payment for facilitating calls by connecting them into the U.S. telecommunications network using voice over IP technology.
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue described the defendants as “enablers,” adding that they were warned numerous times that they were facilitating fraudulent robocalls.
The department’s actions come as Congress and the Trump administration increase their scrutiny of robocalls. President Trump last month signed into a law a new measure aimed at reducing robocalls.
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