After consumers have been "approved" for the program, according to the FTC, the telemarketer informs them that there is an up-front fee, typically ranging from several hundred dollars to nearly $3,000. To convince them to pay the fee, telemarketers often say that it will be more than offset by the money the consumer will save through the program. In some cases, the FTC alleged that consumers' credit cards were charged even if they did not agree to pay for the service. In other cases, the defendants allegedly do not disclose a fee at all, or claim there will be no fee, the FTC stated.
While most robocalls have been banned since 2009, the FTC has seen the problems escalate over the past year. In October it announced the Robocall Challenge offering $50,000 to anyone who can create what the agency calls "an innovative way to block that will block illegal commercial robocalls on landlines and mobile phones."
As part of the challenge, the FTC said it would provide participants with data on de-identified consumer complaints about robocalls made between June 2008 and September 2012. Challenge participants interested in this data will receive periodic updates with contemporary data through Dec. 31, 2012. The complaint data will include: date of call; approximate time of call; reported caller name; first seven digits of reported caller phone number; and consumer area code.
The FTC said it has been working with industry insiders and other experts to identify potential solutions. However, current technology still lets shady telemarketers cheaply autodial thousands of phone calls every minute and display false or misleading caller ID information, the FTC said.
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