How Robo-Callers Outwitted the Government and Completely Wrecked the Do Not Call List

On the morning of Oct. 1, 2015, a middle-aged telemarketer named Aaron Michael Jones arrived at the headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC. The FTC was investigating Jones’ empire for facilitating roughly a billion a year worth of robo-calls. A curious thing happened as they began asking questions: Jones didn’t deny much of anything. Afterward, Jones returned to California and resumed robo-calling. In 2017, the FTC sued him, and five months later a federal judge banned him from telemarketing and hit him with a $2.7 million penalty. Jones didn’t even bother contesting the judgment because he didn’t really care about getting caught. The same goes for the rest of the robo-calling industry. The FTC shuts one facility down and another one springs up. In theory, there’s a fix: the National Do Not Call Registry. Today there are 230 million numbers on it, and yet the FTC receives 19,000 complaints a day from people whose names and numbers are on that list. The problem actually lies with the telecom giants, who do nothing. They tell the FTC they don’t have the authority to address the problems and Washington can’t tell the companies to censor calls, so that's pretty much it. In the end, there’s nothing that can be done if the telecom companies aren’t going to block the illegal calls that plague their own customers.