Principals fined millions for fake Google search-scare scheme

The Federal Trade Commission is getting in on the robocall act this week, announcing May 15 that, at the FTC's behest, a Florida court had granted "summary judgment against two individuals, approved six settlement agreements involving 11 defendants, and entered a default judgment against the remaining seven defendants," saying that put an end to the "massive PointBreak Media robocall scam.  

The FTC charges the defendants with threatening small businesses with the stick--removal from the Google search engine (a business fate worse than death)--or the carrot of keywords that would make them prominent in such searches. They also allegedly managed to write themselves relatively small checks ($100) from a relatively large number of businesses (over $250) without those businesses' knowledge or consent.  

The defendants allegedly called more than 74 million consumers, including 14 million numbers on the national Do Not Call registry. 

The judgment and orders would ban such future conduct and fine the main perpetrators--Dustin Pillonato and Justin Ramsey--more than $3.5 million and more than $4 million more against other defendants as well as the surrender of "a 2016 Lexus RX 350 SUV." 

That comes a day after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed to allow carriers to block robocalls by default, the same week specific legislators opined on the "scourge" at an FCC oversight hearing and as Congress in general is pushing for more government authority and action to rein in robocalls, of which there are tens of billions per year, including to members of Congress during hearings on reining in robocalls. 

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