FTC Launches Massive “Operation Stop Scam Calls” Initiative: Focusing on “Consent Farm” Lead Generators and Robocallers

On July 18, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that the FTC, along with over 100 federal and state law enforcement partners, have launched an extensive campaign named “Operation Stop Scam Calls” to combat the rampant issue of illegal telemarketing calls in the United States. The joint initiative involves attorneys general from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and various government agencies. Their collective efforts have resulted in more than 180 actions taken against operations responsible for generating billions of unwanted calls to U.S. consumers.

Overview of “Operation Stop Scam Calls”

The primary objective of “Operation Stop Scam Calls” is to put an end to illegal telemarketing practices, including the use of robocalls. The crackdown not only targets the telemarketers and the companies that hire them but also addresses lead generators who deceptively collect and provide consumers’ phone numbers to robocallers, falsely claiming that consumers have given consent to receive such calls. Also part of the initiative’s focus are Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers who facilitate illegal robocalls, often originating from overseas.

As part of the effort, the FTC has filed five new cases against companies and individuals allegedly responsible for distributing or assisting in the distribution of illegal telemarketing calls across the nation. The initiative underscores the illegality of third-party lead generation for robocalls under the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The FTC aims to send a clear message that the FTC and its partners are committed to stopping illegal calls by targeting anyone in the telemarketing ecosystem that facilitates these calls, including VoIP service providers.

Some key takeaways from the FTC’s initiative:

  1. A “consent farm” lead generator collects consumers’ information through a single click or checkbox on a website. 
  2. If a company has a website that gathers consumers’ information, then there must be a conspicuous disclosure. For example, there must be a separate disclosure on the website that is not a part of terms of service or a privacy policy.
  3. If a company advertises a service to consumers, such as debt consolidation or job postings, the company must actually perform such services. The ads must not be deceptive.

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