Combat Robocalls, Spoofing Scams & Other Fraudulent Phone Activities

by Dwayne Robinson | July 2019

Charles PonziIllegal phone calls are the favorite tool for fraudsters and other scam artists.1 Of the frauds reported to the Federal Trade Commission, the top method that scam artists used was phone calls by a margin of nearly 6-to-1, according to a 2018 report. Those illegal phone calls cost consumers upwards of $429 million.

Last month, in June 2019, the federal government gave consumers another tool to combat scams by phone. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a ruling explicitly allowing telephone providers like AT&T or T-Mobile to automatically block scam phone calls.2 Traditionally, providers have only provided these services if requested by consumers, also known as opt-in services. Now, the FTC will permit telephone voice providers to offer these services automatically, giving consumers the ability to opt-out of the programs. The rules have a potential to address the estimated 26.3 billion robocalls made to mobile phones in the United States alone in 2018.3

One of the scams the FTC highlighted involves Caller ID spoofing. Scammers are able to mask their telephone numbers on a user’s caller ID to appear as a legitimate government agency or even a relative. Since October 2013, scammers pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service have scammed thousands of victims out of $72 million. Other examples of frauds include fraudulent flood insurance calls after hurricanes or fraudulent vehicle warranty calls.4

The frequency of fraudulent phone calls is not diminishing anytime soon. In 2018, there were 232,000 complaints to the FTC alone. The number was 185,000 the prior year. Most consumers are not reporting each instance of an illegal call given the billions of estimated illegal phone calls, an indication that the FTC’s rule change could benefit the largely passive consumer class in the United States.5

The Federal Communications Commission provides tips for consumers to avoid becoming a victim of a telephone scam. First, do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers. If you do answer, hang up. Even hitting a button in response to a recorded message purportedly allowing you the option to be added to a “Do Not Call List” by hitting that button could help scammers identify your phone number as a potential target for future calls. Telephone users should never provide personal information by phone, including their mother’s maiden names, passwords, or other identifying information. In addition, if ever contacted by a representative purporting to be acting for a government agency, your bank, or a company you are familiar with, one of the safest options is to hang up and call back the agency or company at its official, published phone number.6

Telecommunication companies are also offering additional tools in the fight against the telephone tyrants. AT&T, for instance, offers free services such as AT&T Mobile Security and AT&T Call Protect. They can automatically block fraudulent calls and give their customers screen alerts for suspected spam calls.7 T-Mobile offers similar options, also at no cost. At a nominal cost per month, T-Mobile permits its customers to send a category of calls directly to voicemail.8

One of the safeguards to avoid becoming the victim of a scam is not giving the scam artists a way in—whether that is through your cell phone or otherwise.

1 See Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018, Federal Trade Commission, available at _0.pdf.
2 Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Federal Trade Commission (June 6, 2019), available at (the “Declaratory Ruling”).
3 Declaratory Ruling at ¶ 8.
4 Declaratory Ruling at ¶ 13.
5 Declaratory Ruling ¶ 4.
6 Caller ID Spoofing, Federal Communications Commission (last visited July 9, 2019),
7 Awareness & Education: Robocalls and Unwanted Calls, (last visited July 9, 2019),
8 Scam Protection Solutions, T-Mobile (last visited July 9, 2019),

Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton

Dwayne Robinson
Dwayne is a trial-tested lawyer who has represented clients in dozens of appeals in federal and state court, including at oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal. He has represented clients who have matters simultaneously pending in trial court and appellate court in the same or related cases, assisting them with advancing their litigation goals on multiple fronts.

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