Editorial: Stop the robocalls, FCC
Originally published Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at 09:44p.m.
“Ring, ring, ring,” followed by a recording. That’s what Arizonans have heard more than ever this year on our cell and landline phones.
Robocalls have skyrocketed for every area code in Arizona, reaching 78.3 million calls in June alone, a new study reports. The spike mirrors a national trend, with the total number of robocalls in the U.S. hitting 4.1 billion in the month of June, up from 2.9 billion for January, according to the data from YouMail.
Sadly, the increase came despite Federal Communications Commission regulations aimed at reining in such calls. “It’s become a real problem and agencies at all levels of government are trying to deal with it,” said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America.
In Arizona, the number of calls rose from just under 48.1 million in January, Cronkite News Service reported. The 431.5 million calls to area codes in the state in the first six months of this year nearly reached the total for all of 2017, when Arizonans received 475.4 million robocalls.
Arizona Public Interest Research Group reports that the increase can be attributed to the development of technology that allows one person to send out large amounts of calls. “Now it’s one guy with a computer, who could be working anywhere, making all the calls, not a bunch of people in a big room in a building with a giant phone system,” said Ed Mierzwinski, senior director of consumer programs.
There are two levels of robocalls, the first being a “legitimate businesses but they might not have a legitimate reason to contact you,” Mierzwinski said.
The second level of robocalls come from “bad guys.” Those scammers use computer software to send out mass amounts of calls, usually from overseas.
While not all robocalls are illegal, according to the FCC, what could be illegal is simply the debt collectors surpassing the number of times they are allowed to contact borrowers. Obviously, what the scammers are doing is illegal. One of their tricks is called spoofing, when one phone number is masked as another; spoofing is legal, except when the intent is to defraud. It can lead to fines of up to $10,000.
The FCC claims to have lit a fire under the telephone companies, with its rules and requirements.
We’re not seeing it.
The FCC needs to do more, getting ahead of the scammers and technology; if anything, develop an effective way to block robocalls.
Otherwise, this wastes time, phone minutes, and is a veritable distraction.