Robocall’s fuel jumps in complaints to the federal regulator

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Americans have had it with annoying robo calls and telemarketing calls: Complaints to federal regulators increased by 25% in 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 linked to the Do Not Call Registry in fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. That is an increase from about 4 million complaints received in fiscal year 2020. In fiscal year 2019, the agency received nearly 5.4 million complaints, according to FTC data.

Overwhelming, the FTC said, were the complaints received last year about robo-calls or pre-recorded calls automated and made using an auto-dial feature. Many of these calls were scams involving callers who pretended to be civil servants or offered guarantees, protection plans, or customer service assistance. The next major category of calls was related to debt reduction and addressing medical needs and prescriptions. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the FTC has received more than 18,000 COVID-related “Do Not Call” complaints.

“Consumer complaints about illegal calls – especially robo calls – have increased significantly,” the agency said.

For years, illegal, recorded spam calls have been a nuisance to the public. They are also the No. 1 consumer complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission, which has made the fight against them a top priority.

Illegal robo calls are not just annoying. Nearly 60 million Americans say they have fallen victim to a phone scam in the past year, such as calls pretending to be from the IRS or from a company asking for an expiring warranty on a non-existent car, according to a report from Truecaller, a company that makes a spam blocking and caller ID app. In all, Americans have been defrauded of nearly $ 30 billion in phone fraud over the past 12 months, according to a study by Truecaller and Harris Poll.

The FTC said in its report that the biggest driving force behind the robo calls was probably the use of technology that allows scammers and telemarketers to hide their identities by “spoofing” their phone numbers. Spoofing allows robocallers to display a number to make it look like the call is coming from a trusted source, making it more likely that people will answer the call.

The agency has tried to crack down on spoofing technology. June 30 was a deadline for large telephone companies to implement technology called Stir / Shaken, designed to curb spam calls by requiring voice providers to verify where calls are coming from. In December, the agency pushed the deadline for many smaller providers to comply with this technology.

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

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

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

“As new technology presents new challenges, both agencies actively seek to address and confront them by, among other things, encouraging the private industry, other public authorities, academia and other stakeholders to create and develop new strategies to help consumers Avoid unwanted telemarketing calls, “the FTC said.

The Agency has also launched a regulatory initiative to combat fraud by companies and authorities.

In fiscal year 2021, more than 2.8 million people added their phone numbers to the federal Do Not Call list, bringing the total to 244 million, according to the FTC. The Do Not Call Registry, which was signed into law in 2003, allows consumers with home phones to register their numbers with the FTC to let telemarketers know they should not be called with calls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, passed in 1991, even prevents telemarketers from calling mobile phone customers without their express consent.

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