Attorney General Ellison sues Avid Telecom over illegal robocalls
Alleges company initiated and facilitated billions of illegal robocalls, including calls spoofing government agencies — including at least 14K to Minnesotans
AG Ellison joins 48 states and District in Columbia in first lawsuit to arise from Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force
May 23, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 48 states and the District of Columbia in filing a lawsuit against Michael D. Lansky, LLC, which does business under the name Avid Telecom, its owner Michael Lansky, and its vice president Stacey S. Reeves, for allegedly initiating and facilitating billions of illegal robocalls to millions of people and violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and other federal telemarketing and consumer laws. For example, Avid Telecom sent or transmitted more than 7.5 billion calls to telephone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. Attorney General Ellison and the coalition allege in the complaint that this number includes at least 14,395 calls into Minnesota.
Today’s legal action arises from the bipartisan, nationwide Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force of 51 attorneys general, which Attorney General Ellison joined in August 2022. The task force is investigating and taking legal action against those responsible for routing significant volumes of illegal robocall traffic into and across the United States.
“Everybody hates robocalls — and everybody gets them, including me. Minnesotans file more complaints about robocalls with our office than about any other single problem — but because it’s hard for states acting alone to make a dent in them, I joined this bipartisan, nationwide task force so we can tackle this scourge together,” Attorney General Ellison said. “This lawsuit is our first and it won’t be our last. Together, we’re taking the fight directly to anyone in the telecom industry who helps robocallers and scammers perpetrate their fraud on the public.”
Avid Telecom is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider that sells data, phone numbers, dialing software, and expertise to help its customers make mass robocalls. It also serves as an intermediate provider and allegedly facilitated or helped route illegal robocalls across the country. Between December 2018 and January 2023, Avid sent or attempted to transmit more than 24.5 billion calls. More than 90 percent of those calls lasted less than just 15 seconds, which indicates they were likely robocalls. Further, Avid helped make hundreds of millions of calls using spoofed or invalid caller ID numbers, including more than 8.4 million calls that appeared to be coming from government and law enforcement agencies, as well as spoofed numbers belonging to private companies.
Avid Telecom allegedly sent or transmitted calls from scammers falsely claiming to be the Social Security Administration, Medicare, auto warranty companies, Amazon, DirecTV, credit card companies offering a reduced interest rate, and prospective employers . Examples of some of these scam calls are available to listen to here and here.
The USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Group, which notifies providers about known and suspected illegal robocalls sent across their networks, sent at least 329 notifications to Avid Telecom that it was transmitting these calls, but Avid Telecom continued to do so at great scale.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General provided investigative assistance in this matter.
The scourge of robocalls and how to avoid them
Attorney General Ellison is committed to stopping illegal and unwanted robocalls. According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, over 33 million scam robocalls are made to Americans every day. These scam calls include Social Security Administration fraud against seniors, Amazon scams against consumers, and many other scams targeting all consumers, including those who are most vulnerable. Scammers stole an estimated $29.8 billion dollars through scam calls in 2021 alone.
Most of this scam robocall traffic originates overseas. The Task Force is focused on shutting down the providers that profit from this illegal scam traffic and refuse to take steps to otherwise mitigate these scam calls.
Attorney General Ellison offers the following tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls:
- If you suspect fraudulent activity, immediately hang up and do not provide any personal information.
- Be wary of callers who specifically ask you to pay by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. For example, the Internal Revenue Service does not accept payment in iTunes gift cards.
- Look out for prerecorded calls from imposters posing as government agencies. Typically, the Social Security Administration does not make phone calls to individuals.
Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesotans who have received scam robocalls or been victimized by them to contact or file a complaint with his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro area), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota) or online.
“I encourage anyone who receives a scam robocall to make a note of the number and report it to my office, because it will help us trace those numbers back and hold accountable those responsible for enabling scammers,” Attorney General Ellison continued. “And if you’ve been scammed, don’t be ashamed, because these scammers are professionals who are very good at what they do. And don’t stay silent — that’s what scammers want you to do. Instead, report it to my office: we may be able to help you, and by reporting it, you will help us get to the root of the problem and stop it.”
“Don’t hang on — hang up”
“Above all, don’t hang on — hang up. We Minnesotans are polite folks who don’t like hanging up on others, even when they’re being rude or we suspect they’re trying to scam us. But scammers don’t deserve our politeness or respect, so protect yourself and your family and hang up immediately,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.