Editor's take: While it's nice to see the FCC doling out huge fines to companies that prey on the naive and waste more cautious people's time, it's hard to get overly excited about it. The scammers ultimately never pay the fines and often are overseas so there is little in the way of enforcement. These scammers have already been banned from telemarketing, yet here they are. However, that doesn't mean the FCC should give up and not even try.

In December 2022, the FCC proposed the biggest fine it has ever issued against a robocalling outfit – $299,997,000. The penalty eclipses the previous record holder – Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom – by nearly $75 million in 2020. After a lengthy investigation, the Commission decided on Thursday to proceed with the huge fine.

The record-breaking punishment goes to an illegal transnational robocalling operation. The outfit is so big (or so blatantly illegal) that it does not have an official umbrella company. It's more of a network of cooperating businesses that made more than five billion automated calls to over 500 million phone numbers within a three-month period in 2021.

In doing so, the FCC says the organized operation broke multiple federal laws by spoofing more than one million telephone numbers to hide their actual origin and trick people into answering the calls. It also violated numerous other FCC regulations.

"The enterprise violated a multitude of robocall prohibitions by making pre-recorded voice calls to mobile phones without prior express consent, placing telemarketing calls without written consent, dialing numbers included on the National Do Not Call Registry, failing to identify the caller at the start of the message, and failing to provide a call-back number that allowed consumers to opt out of future calls," the FCC said in a statement. "The calls also violated spoofing laws by using misleading caller ID to disguise the enterprise's role and prompt consumers to answer."

The operation has allegedly been around since 2018 and primarily sold consumers vehicle service contracts falsely disguised as auto warranties. Two primary bad actors – Roy M. Cox and Aaron Michael Jones – already hold lifetime bans from running telemarketing businesses after losing a lawsuit brought on them by the FCC and the State of Texas. Business names associated with the illegal enterprise include Sumco Panama, Virtual Telecom, Davis Telecom, Geist Telecom, Fugle Telecom, Tech Direct, Mobi Telecom, and Posting Express.

When the FCC discovered this network of illegally run companies, it asked all US service providers to stop allowing traffic from some of the associated businesses. The commission claims the embargo resulted in a 99-percent drop in illegal auto warranty calls. It also partnered with the Ohio Attorney General's Office in suing several of the companies and individuals involved.

In December it proposed the record-breaking fine and offered the accused a chance to state their case. Unsurprisingly, the defendants were a no-show so the Commission approved the massive fine today. Should the defendants fail to pay, the FCC will hand off the matter to the Department of Justice to pursue, potentially adding prison time to the financial penalties.

It's hard to nail down robocallers, but it's at least nice to see the FCC trying to hit them with huge penalties instead of laughable slaps on the wrist.