Proving once again that nature abhors a vacuum, we’ve just learned of another bit of fallout for broadcasters from the federal shutdown—scammers are apparently calling broadcast stations pretending to be calling on behalf of the FCC and seeking to collect “FCC fees” over the telephone. The first of these calls that we heard about occurred within six hours of the FCC shutting down.
With the FCC largely closed at this point, these callers are likely assuming that it will be very difficult for a broadcaster to ascertain the veracity of a fee claim or to confirm whether a caller is actually connected to the FCC. As detailed in our earlier post, however, the FCC, along with the rest of the federal government, is operating only at a bare-bones “protecting life and property” level at this point. While it could certainly use the money given the current absence of congressional funding, a closed FCC is not seeking to collect it from broadcasters, and certainly not over the telephone.
So if you get a call claiming to be on behalf of the FCC and demanding money, be skeptical. Be even more skeptical if the caller wants you to pay with gift cards—the preferred payment method of phone scammers. The FCC is really more of a check and credit card operation, and has very complex systems for processing those forms of payment. It will not allow you to pay your regulatory fees with gift cards, and certainly doesn’t do it over the telephone.
If you do get such a call, one place you can report it to is the Federal Trade Commission, but you may have to wait until the federal shutdown is over, as processing complaints regarding phone scammers is one of the many FTC activities that have ceased due to the government shutdown.