April 2024 Foodman Website and JD Supra

On 4/4/24, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Enforcement Bureau  issued a cease-and-desist letter against Veriwave Telco due to an illegal robocall campaign pertaining to a “National Tax Relief Program.” The FCC also warned the company that failure to comply with the requirements outlined in the cease-and-desist letter may result in mandatory blocking by downstream providers of all traffic from Veriwave.

Robocall Campaign falsely targeted to “rapidly clear” the call recipient’s tax debt

The FCC estimates almost sixteen million calls with pre-recorded messages were placed between November 1, 2023, and January 31, 2024, via the YouMail software app company pertaining to a “National Tax Relief Program”. The FCC found no evidence that this program actually exists and that the “illegal robocalling campaign increased in volume in the three months immediately preceding the start of the 2024 tax filing season”. These calls offered to “rapidly clear” the call recipient’s tax debt. “Those receiving the call were apparently asked to provide personal information, including dates of birth and social security numbers.”

“Spring Cleaning” initiative kicks off

The FCC stated that it plans to coordinate closely with other federal agencies to issue a series of robocall actions against entities harming consumers and eroding trust in the telecommunications infrastructure. The Bureau’s focus is on preventing the damage and distress resulting from active scams particularly widespread during the spring season. The perpetrators of illegal robocalls use the springtime calendar, with the tax filing deadline a notable feature, to initiate predatory activities seeking to maximize the harm to consumers. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel: “Tricking consumers with tax season scams is just plain wrong, but we all know it remains a common ploy. While illegal robocallers continue to try to hide from us, we’ll keep seeking them out and hold them accountable for putting consumers at risk.”  Chief Loyaan Egal: “Through our ‘Spring Cleaning’ initiative, we are taking targeted actions to ensure the integrity of U.S. communications networks and increase consumers’ confidence that their phones are not being weaponized against them to commit fraud. We want to thank our partners at the IRS for helping us kick off the ‘Spring Cleaning’ initiative and will be working closely with other agencies throughout the spring to address different illegal robocall campaigns that are harming consumers.”

The FCC has issued warnings to voice service providers that have transmitted illegal robocalls on their networks

Since March 2021, the FCC has been issuing cease and desist letters to companies suspected of originating and/or transmitting illegal robocall campaigns. Examples on how the FCC has addressed robocall campaigns to save consumers from the scams and illegal calls include:

  • Blocking active robocall scam campaigns by issuing first-of-their-kind actions
  • Fining companies record-breaking amounts for illegal robocalls and spoofing
  • Closing gateways used by international robocallers to reach Americans’ phones
  • Widespread implementation of STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication standards – including applying the requirements to gateway providers
  • Working with industry to traceback illegal calls to their sources
  • Ensuring voice service providers meet FCC robocall mitigation requirements
  • Signing robocall investigation partnerships with forty-nine states, District of Columbia, Guam, and international partners
  • Establishing first-of-their-kind regulations targeting scam text messaging
  • Launching the Robocall Mitigation Database to monitor STIR/SHAKEN compliance

IRS also warns taxpayers to remain vigilant with unsolicited messages

“The IRS continues to warn taxpayers about aggressive scam attempts that threaten people’s cash as well as sensitive financial and personal information,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “Impersonating the IRS and others in the tax community remains a favorite tactic for scammers hoping to prey on innocent taxpayers, and we highlight these as part of our annual IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ tax scams. The IRS urges people to be extra cautious about unsolicited messages, whether by phone or text, as well as avoiding clicking any links in an unexpected email. These scams can occur at any time of the year, not just during tax season.”

Fraudsters continue to look for ways to steal money, personal information, data and more

Scammers will continue  to initiate robocalls seeking to steal personal taxpayer information, including dates of birth and social security numbers. Taxpayers ought to be aware and vigilant of scams and learn how to recognize them. That said, taxpayers ought to know that they are legally responsible for what’s on their return and should rely on reputable tax professionals they know and trust. Finally, taxpayers should always remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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