Robocalls fuel jump in complaints to federal regulator

Americans have done it with annoying robocalls and telemarketing calls: Complaints to federal regulators have increased 25% over the past year.

In a biennial report to Congress published Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission said it received more than 5 million complaints about violations of rules involving the Do Not Call Registry in fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. This is up from the nearly 4 million complaints received in FY20. In fiscal 2019, the agency received about 5.4 million complaints, according to FTC data.

Heavy, the FTC said, complaints received last year were about robocalls, or pre-recorded calls that are automated and made using automatic dialers. Many of these calls were scams with callers pretending to be government officials or offering warranties, protection plans or customer technical support. The next big category of calls were related to reducing debt and addressing medical needs and prescriptions. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the FTC has received more than 18,000 Do Not Call complaints.

“Consumer complaints about illegal calls – robocalls in particular – have increased significantly,” the agency said.

For years, illegal, recorded spam calls have been a curse to the masses. 1 consumer complaint made to the Federal Communications Commission, which has given them top priority.

Illegal robocalls aren’t just annoying. According to a report by Truecaller, a company, nearly 60 million Americans say they have been the victim of a phone scam in the past year, such as inquiries from the IRS or from a company about an expired warranty on a non-existent car. Calling company. Which makes a spam-blocking and caller ID app. According to a survey conducted by Truecaller and Harris Poll, Americans have been duped of nearly $30 billion in phone scams over the past 12 months.

The FTC said in its report that the biggest driver of robocalls was probably the use of technology that allows scammers and telemarketers to hide their identities by “spoofing” their phone numbers. Spoofing allows robbers to display a number to make it appear that the call is coming from a trusted source, making it more likely that people will pick up the call.

Another federal agency, the Federal Communications Commission, is trying to crack down on the spoofing technique. The June 30 deadline by the FCC required major telephone companies to implement a technology called stir/shaken, which was designed to prevent spam calls by requiring voice providers to verify where the call originated. are coming. In December, the agency extended the deadline for many smaller providers to comply with this technology.

Experts say the action has helped reduce calls, but scammers continue to look for ways to trick Americans into picking up phones and handing over money.

“Stir/Shaken has closed down an avenue,” said Truecaller senior advisory board member Clayton Liabreton. “But it is making already very capable criminals even more sophisticated and sinister in their scams.”

The FTC says it is important that it and the FCC work together to tackle this problem.

“As new technology provides new challenges, both agencies are actively involved in, among other things, private industry, other government agencies, academia and other interested parties to encourage and help consumers avoid unwanted telemarketing calls. to address and develop new strategies to address them,” the FTC said.

The agency has also launched a rule-making initiative to deal with business and government impersonation fraud.

According to the FTC, in fiscal year 2021, more than 2.8 million people added their phone numbers to the federal Do Not Call list, bringing the total number to 244 million. The Do Not Call Registry, which was signed into law in 2003, gives consumers, especially those with home landline telephones, the option to register their numbers with the FTC to let telemarketers know when they are requested. Not to be called together.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, passed in 1991, prohibits telemarketers from making calls to mobile phone customers without their explicit consent. While telemarketers should not place calls on wireless mobile devices without permission, the FTC says consumers can register their mobile numbers with the Do Not Call Registry.

Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday that 10 million households have signed up for the Affordable Connectivity Program, a program that provides subsidies to low-income Americans to help pay for broadband service. The subsidies were made possible through a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.

In remarks at the White House, Harris said this was an important milestone as President Joe Biden and his administration work toward closing the digital divide and ensuring that every American has access to high-speed, affordable broadband. have access to the service.

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