It’s already been a busy and productive summer in the ongoing battle against robocalling and telephone scams. On May 23, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (“TRACED”) Act by a 97-1 vote. The legislation grants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stepped-up enforcement power to levy heavy penalties, including significant fines, against violators.
In addition, on June 6 the FCC voted unanimously to grant telecommunications companies the authority to proactively identify and block robocallers. The agency will hold a summit with carriers in July to identify a framework for implementing these new guidelines, and has committed to pursuing “aggressive enforcement action” against robocallers.
This federal intervention should provide welcome relief to consumers, coming as it does amidst estimates that nuisance calls will grow from 29 percent of all phone calls in 2018 to as much as 45 percent of all calls this year. And new types of scams continue to pop-up with alarming regularity.
Among the new tricks: “neighbor spoofing,” in which fraudsters alter their phone number to look like a legitimate call from nearby, and the “one ring” scam, which involves robocallers hanging up after one ring, hoping to trick the victim into calling back. Variations of this scam rely on phony voice-mail messages urging you to call a number with an unfamiliar area code to schedule a delivery, resolve a bogus legal issue, or notify you about a sick relative.
While the latest government action offers powerful remedies to deter bad actors, there are steps you can also take to protect yourself. Here are a few simple tips to help thwart the scammers:
- Familiarize yourself with call blocking options for your cellphone.
- Don’t answer or return any calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
- List your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. While this will not prevent unscrupulous callers from contacting you, it can help to limit the number you receive.
- If your number is on the registry and you receive unwanted calls, report them. This can help expose and catch callers who are engaging in fraud.