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Attorney General Xavier Becerra Calls for Strengthening Robocall Regulations

The rising frequency of robocalling in recent years –– up 50 percent from 2017 to 2018 in the U.S.–– as well as the accompanying consumer losses has California Attorney General Xavier Becerra signing onto a letter last week to support legislative changes to strengthen regulations that protect consumers.

A staggering $488 million was lost by consumers in the U.S. from robocall scams in 2018, according to Becerra and about 40 other attorneys general who signed the letter addressed to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Almost 40 percent of those robocalls attempted to scam customers with pretexts involving health insurance, student loans, taxes, travel, business, and warranties, the letter stated. Despite the onslaught of legislation efforts to combat robocalling and spoofing in the past years, statistics show that consumers are still suffering from the effects of the illegal practice.

While robocalling, which uses “an autodialer” or “a message made with a prerecorded or artificial voice,” is legal, the consumer’s consent is still needed to be contacted, according to the FCC. Scammers also often use spoofing –– disguising the caller ID number on an incoming call, often to appear as if the call is sourced locally –– to trick consumers into releasing valuable information that is then sold illegally or used in fraud.

The proposed changes would modify the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. They aim to “improve and expand the prohibition on ‘caller ID spoofing,’” according to a press release from Becerra’s office. While spoofing is legal in some cases and often used legitimately by businesses, current laws restrict callers from spoofing “with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value,” according to the FCC.

If enacted, the proposed changes would strengthen the Federal Communication Commission’s ability to combat spoofing and international robocalls by expanding FCC’s reach to include calls originating outside the U.S. Communication services such as text messages and voice services would also fall under the law, according to the press release.

The letter of support for the changes is proposed alongside a series of other measures proposed in the past months to address robocalling enforcement and regulations. The “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” or TRACED act, introduced in mid-January, proposed amendments to the Communication Act of 1934 by adding specific penalties for those found to be in violation of the bill.

The letter also urges voice providers to create regulations of their own on robocalling which go beyond the regulations sent forth in the 2017 Call Blocking Order, which allowed voice providers use a “Do-Not-Originate” list to identify and block ‘invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers,” according to a letter of the proposed changes.

The FCC has regulations on its website, fcc.gov, advising how individuals can avoid or confront robocall scammers, which include to ignore calls from unknown numbers, and if answered, to not respond to questions or reveal personal information. Consumers can also report instances of illegal robocalling on the FCC’s website. Mobile phone apps such as Norombo, Verizon Call Filter, and AT&T Call Protect claim to help consumers avoid robocalling. 

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