Warm greetings from the FCC as we celebrate National Consumer Protection Week 2022.
Here at the FCC, and especially at the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, protecting consumers is core to our mission. Top of mind is stopping illegal robocalls from reaching consumers. These unsolicited calls are often a pathway to fraud, intimidation, or at the very least represent an unwelcome disruption to our everyday lives.
Robocalls are not just a nuisance, they are an important consumer concern that we at the FCC take very seriously. As a part of our job at the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, we work to ensure that consumers have the support they need to file a complaint about unwanted calls and texts. We also ensure consumers have access to timely information about how to avoid scams and protect themselves against bad actors who employ robocalls to mislead consumers or trap them into providing sensitive personal information that puts them at risk
In our Consumer Help Center we post scam notices along with tips to identify scam calls. We also provide information on how to protect yourself including links to call-blocking tools and resources that provide information about how to stop unwanted calls from ever reaching your phone.
But it takes more than education to stop unwanted calls scams. To help reduce spoofing (when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity), new FCC rules now require phone companies to implement caller ID authentication. We have also established rules that empower phone companies to block by default illegal or unwanted calls based on reasonable analytics before the calls reach your phone.
We also know that stopping unwanted calls is a team lift. The FCC works with other agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, and an Industry Traceback Group that conducts private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls. Last month, the team got a little larger when two more state attorneys general signed new robocall enforcement MOUs with the FCC, expanding our efforts to protect consumers around the country from illegal robocalls and spoofing scams.
Those partnerships are paying off. Most recently the Commission proposed a $45 million fine against a robocalling telemarketer who apparently made hundreds of thousands of calls with false claims about the pandemic to induce people to purchase health insurance.
Of course, we aren’t done yet. A large percentage of illegal robocalls are initiated overseas, outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction, so we’re currently working on new rules that will stop robocalls that originate outside of the U.S. from being passed on by companies known as gateway providers, the first stop before the calls reach U.S. consumers. And since many scammers are shifting to text-based scams, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has shared with her colleagues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would combat the rise of robotexts by requiring mobile wireless providers to block illegal text messaging.
We know that our multi-pronged approach is making a difference, but we have more work to do to end illegal robocalls and robotexts, and you as a consumer play an important role. When you get an unwanted call or text, please report it on our complaint webpage and file an informal complaint with the FCC. The robocall complaints that we receive help to inform our policy decisions as well as our investigations. Each complaint we receive gets us closer to our goal.
I also encourage you to visit our Consumer Help Center today and often to explore our consumer guides – which are available in a variety of languages – and other helpful information that will help keep you and your family safe from illegal robocalls and texts.
Working together, we will stop robocall and text scams.
Bureau Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs