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Fighting Robocalls: The FCC’s Newest Classification

Bola Ogbara
Bola Ogbara Connect on LinkedIn
2 min. read

The FCC's latest efforts to combat illegal robocalls include the new C-CIST classification, which will help protect consumers from fraudulent schemes.Fighting Robocalls

On May 13, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created a new classification to combat illegal robocalls - a type of cybercrime where companies call to sell you products and programs (which are often fraudulent) without your consent. According to a press release, any group or individual “persistently facilitating robocall campaigns, aimed at defrauding and harming consumers” will now be known as a Consumer Communications Information Services Threat (C-CIST). 


The first group to be named and shamed is a group called ‘Royal Tiger’, which has associates in the US, the UK, India, and the United Arab Emirates. In the US, there are four companies in this operation, both of which are led by “Prince Jashvantlal Anand” and his associate “Kaushal Bhavsar.” Royal Tiger has repeatedly impersonated federal agencies, banks, and even utility companies, which the FCC calls “particularly nefarious”, because of the amount of financial damages victims can incur, also while destroying public confidence in telecommunications. 


In the press release, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau and Chair of the Privacy and Data Protection Task Force, Loyaan A. Egal, said the new classification is especially relevant as the recent advances in technology have also meant advances in cybercrime: “As our investigative targets use more and more sophisticated and clandestine means such as generative AI voice-cloning technology and ‘spoofing’ to obtain sensitive data and defraud consumers, the C-CIST classification tool will allow us to better coordinate with our state, federal, and global regulatory and law enforcement partners to take on these bad actors.” Looking forward, “the C-CIST designation of Royal Tiger, and similar future designations, will assist industry stakeholders in better protecting their customers and their privacy.” 


While the Royal Tiger is the only C-CIST that has been publicly identified so far, the FCC explains that threat actors like these are especially slippery to catch because of how often they change company names and addresses to obscure their crimes and continue to defraud their victims. Even after a number of actions by the FCC, like cutting off service providers that don’t cooperate with robocall investigators, sending cease-and-desist letters to said voice service providers, and massive fines (including a $45 million fine to a company to a robocall that sold health insurance using the COVID-19 pandemic as part of their false pretenses) - the FCC still reports that “U.S. consumers receive approximately 4 billion robocalls per month.”


The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau - the subgroup responsible for this new category - has been especially active in 2024, working hard to fight robocalls. While the rise of artificial intelligence has helped many industries streamline processes, it has also made robocalls more pervasive, and in some cases, more difficult to distinguish from real callers. As a response, the FCC made robocalls with AI-generated voices illegal in February of 2024. The creation of the C-CIST classification comes on the tail of the Bureau’s ‘Spring Cleaning’ initiative, which started in April 2024. They’ve pursued many groups who use the tax season as context to deceive their victims, including Veriwave Telco, which received a cease-and-desist letter for their fake ‘National Tax Relief Program’. 


Through the C-CIST classification and the Spring Cleaning initiative, the FCC is doing crucial work to stop robocalls. While the majority of U.S. consumers may see them as pesky interruptions, these calls can be ruinous (in 2022, they cost almost 60 million Americans nearly $29 billion). The FCC’s efforts will hopefully curb the number of scam calls made and keep more money in the pockets of consumers.