The fine is part of an expanded effort to reign in automated sales calls.

By Kif Leswing

The Federal Communications Commission fined two Texas-based telemarketers a record $225 million on Wednesday for making automated sales phone calls, or robocalls, in 2019.

The marketers, under the business names Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, used robocalls to falsely sell short-term health insurance plans. They made about one billion robocalls, according to the FCC.

FILE – This file photo, shows a call log displayed via an AT&T app on a cellphone in Orlando, Fla. The app helps locate and block fraudulent calls, although some robocalls do get through.(John Raoux | AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

The fine, originally proposed last summer, is one part of an expanded effort to reign in automated sales calls the FCC announced on Wednesday. It’s the largest fine in the commission’s history.

Robocalls are a daily annoyance for many Americans, and they have been rising in recent years, with some estimates showing that billions are made per month. The number of spam calls received in the U.S. rose 26% in the last year, according to Robokiller, an anti-spam call app.

The FCC recommends that people don’t answer calls from unknown numbers because of the problem.

Efforts to control the problem have been slowed by legacy technology in the telephone system which allows scammers to fake local phone numbers, and a business model where only a very small number of victims need to be scammed in order for the robocaller to make money.

The FCC also announced on Wednesday that it has formed a “Robocall Response Team” with 51 FCC employees which will coordinate anti-robocall efforts. The FCC is reaching out to the FTC, DOJ, and state attorney generals to tackle the issue.

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