United States Settles Suit Against VoIP Service Providers for Facilitating Millions of Illegal Telemarketing Calls about COVID-19
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers, VoIP Terminator Inc. and BLMarketing Inc., and their owner, Muhammed Usman Khan, agreed to a court order resolving Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allegations that they facilitated tens of millions of illegal telemarketing calls, including some calls to numbers listed on the “Do Not Call” Registry and robocalls that displayed “spoofed” or fake caller ID numbers. This stipulated order resolves a lawsuit the United States filed in federal district court in the Middle District of Florida.
The government’s complaint alleges that Florida-based VoIP Terminator, Virginia-based BLMarketing and Pakistan resident and citizen Khan violated the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The defendants violated the TSR by assisting and facilitating the transmission of illegal calls for their customers, continuing to do so even after learning that their services were being used to initiate calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and to place spoofed robocalls. The complaint alleges that the illegal calls transmitted by defendants included recorded messages about air duct cleaning services that purportedly filtered out COVID-19, preying on consumers’ fears of the virus, as well as messages involving credit card interest rate reduction and tech support scams.
The stipulated order bars the defendants from similar misconduct in the future, requires them to screen and monitor customers, terminate customers if they are engaged in improper telemarketing activity and imposes a $3.2 million civil penalty, payment of which is suspended due to defendants’ inability to pay. This is the FTC’s third case against VoIP services providers.
The FTC referred this case and the proposed stipulated order to the Department of Justice. The case was handled by attorneys in the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, including Trial Attorneys Ellen Bowden McIntyre and Zachary Dietert and Assistant Director Lisa Hsiao, in conjunction with attorneys at the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection/Division of Marketing Practices.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. Run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international actors committing civil and criminal fraud and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866 720 5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form