You’re probably not in trouble with the IRS, don’t need a medical brace, and aren’t under arrest. But you’ve undoubtedly gotten robocalls to the contrary. In fact, Americans got more than 26 billion of those calls last year.
“Consumers have been saying loudly and clearly and for many years that they are fed up with unwanted robocalls,” says Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai in a video on the commission’s website.
Unwanted calls are the top consumer complaint to the FCC. The government expects major phone companies to begin rolling out improved caller ID based on new technology standards later this year. But Pai says, “There is no silver bullet to stop scammers and others who make unwanted robocalls.”
That hasn’t stopped Washington lawmakers from seeking an end to fraudulent calls and text messages. A bipartisan bill called the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act passed the U.S. House on Wednesday.
“I get them every day. I mean, it’s an outrage,” says Congressman Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat. “It’s not just a difficulty and a pain in the neck, but it’s an invasion of your privacy.”
The House bill includes a section sponsored by Crist known as the Spam Calls Task Force Act. It compels the FCC and the Department of Justice to work together on a plan to stop bothersome robocalls. The task force will try to figure out where the calls originate, who’s financing them, and whether it’s a large contingent of con artists doing all the damage or just a handful.
Crist says it remains to be seen whether phone makers and service providers are open to making changes that would hinder scam callers. “It doesn’t matter to me if they’re receptive or not to be candid with you,” Crist says. “I work for the people, and what’s best for them is to stop this harassment.”
The overall bill would force phone companies to provide caller authentication. That would cut down on “spoofing,” where scam calls appear to be coming from a trusted source. The bill would also close loopholes that enable many robocallers to evade the law, and it would give the FCC authority to impose sanctions against violators.