Feds, Indiana Try to Disconnect Robocallers

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Feds, Indiana Try to Disconnect Robocallers

Coordinated announcements of lawsuits in 40 states seek to send message to autodial firms

(CHICAGO) - The Federal Trade Commission says it's cracking down on robocalls -- but one of its most important weapons is you.

Indiana and 39 other states have announced coordinated lawsuits against 82 robocallers. The FTC filed four more suits against companies it blames for hundreds of millions of robocalls, and federal prosecutors have filed five criminal cases.

Indiana's suit accuses Maryland-based American Health Services of violating the state's ban on autodialers, and ignoring Indiana's do-not-call list to pester Hoosiers to buy insurance. The lawsuit charges AHS wasn't even registered to sell insurance in Indiana. The state is seeking $1.17 million in damages.

FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Andrew Smith says even for people not on the do-not-call registry, it's illegal to make a prerecorded call without prior consent. And many telemarketers break a second law by plastering a bogus phone number on caller ID.

Smith says when you get a prerecorded sales pitch, just hang up -- and don't press any buttons asking them not to call you. All that does is tell the machine it's found a live phone number. The FTC is urging you to block those callers and report them to the consumer bureau.

Smith acknowledges new telemarketers spring up almost as fast as investigators can chop the old ones down. And many call centers are located outside the U.S., and thus outside the FTC's reach. But Smith says there's a noticeable drop in complaints after crackdowns like Tuesday's -- even though those complaints inevitably creep upward again.

(Photo: Eugenio Marongiu/Thinkstock)

 

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