PHILADELPHIA (WJET) — A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously.
In 2019, Congress passed the TRACED Act, which mandated phone companies install caller ID verification to squash illegal robocalls by the end of June. However, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide, combined with an even lower percentage among smaller telecommunications companies, have installed anti-robocall technology, even though that initial deadline has passed.
“How much longer are we going to tolerate people’s lives being destroyed when they fall for an imposter call that looks like it’s coming from their bank or the IRS?” said Emma Horst-Martz, PennPIRG Education Fund Advocate. “This is inexcusable, it has to stop, and phone company compliance will make a big difference.”
On Wednesday, the PennPIRG Education Fund published a new report, Make the Ringing Stop: The FCC is Finally Fighting Back Against Robocalls.
“Robocall scams are not just an annoyance — they are illegal, and are designed to rip off Pennsylvanians, especially seniors,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “I’m calling on these phone companies to hurry up and meet the deadline to shut down these invasive and costly scam attempts.”
As of this month, 3,063 telecommunications providers reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“Here we are with more than 80 percent of phone companies not doing all they can to stop robocalls,” said Horst-Martz. “These unwanted calls terrorize all of us and victimize many of us. As if the $10 billion a year in fraud losses from illegal robocalls isn’t bad enough, they cost us Americans another $3 billion a year in wasted time.”
While robocalls have declined slightly this summer, PennPIRG is asking for more. Smaller phone companies currently have until June 2023 to upgrade their technology, but the non-profit organization is asking regulators to move up the deadline.
Standing by their side are the attorneys general for all 50 states.
“As elected officials, we should always work to protect consumers, but providers bear some responsibility as well,” said state Representative Robert Matzie, Democratic Chair of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. “This report shows bad actors, good actors, and those in between. We’ve made strides, but much more needs to be done.”
According to the PennPIRG Education Fund’s research, only 16 of the country’s 49 largest mobile and home phone companies have told the FCC that they have completely implemented anti-robocall technology, and an additional 18 have partially implemented the technology.
The remaining 15 companies have either told the FCC they haven’t adopted the industry standard technology at all and are using their own methods to reduce robocalls instead or have not reported their status to the FCC’s database at all, as required by law.
Starting Sept. 28, phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the FCC.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in robocalls in the past few years, even with new efforts to regulate them,” said Pennsylvania state Senator John Kane. “We need to be making sure the regulations are enforced, and that we’re working at both the state and federal levels to reduce the number of unnecessary robocalls.”
Horst-Matz advises anyone who receives these calls to:
- Never pay bills over the phone by gift card
- Hang up and call someone you trust before you take any action if you receive a call that says you’re a victim of fraud or behind on taxes or someone you know is in jail
- Register all of your phone numbers with the federal Do Not Call list at 1-888-382-1222
- Hang up if your Caller ID says your incoming call is a Robocall. Do not press any buttons or ask them to take you off the list.
- Do not provide your full name on your outbound voicemail message. There is no reason to give scammers any information about you.
- Report illegal robocalls or DNC violations to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP. You can also file a complaint online HERE. Violations can be reported HERE by recording the phone number that called you.
- Report illegal calls to the Attorney General of your state. You can find their contact information on their website.