FCC gets even tougher on robocallers


Hands up, robo.

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The US Federal Communications Commission is getting even tougher on illegal robocallers. The agency issued an order Friday ending the practice of warning most robocallers initiating unwanted calls. 

Before the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act was passed in December 2019, the FCC was required by law to warn illegal robocallers or face fines. But the passage of the TRACED Act into law lifted that requirement. The FCC is now free to make rules for enforcing the law. 

“Robocall scam operators don’t need a warning these days to know what they are doing is illegal, and this FCC has long disliked the statutory requirement to grant them mulligans,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.  “We have taken unprecedented action against spoofing violations in recent years and removing this outdated ‘warning’ requirement will help us speed up enforcement to protect consumers.

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Tips to stop robocalls


The FCC also said Friday that it will increase the maximum fines against individuals or companies initiating robocalls. And the agency has extended the statute of limitations during which robocallers can be fined for violating the law by spoofing calls. Spoofing is when a caller mimics a local phone number to trick someone into answering the call. 

Robocalls have been a growing problem in the US. The number of calls have also surged amid the coronavirus pandemic, as illegal callers look to take advantage of Americans by offering nonexistent medical equipment or fake testing kits for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. 

The FCC has already launched a COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips webpage to alert consumers to the proliferation of these phone and text scams related to the pandemic. And the FTC recommends that people hang up on or block robocallers. 

The FCC voted in March to require all companies that provide phone service to implement automatic call blocking technology to fight illegal robocalls. The agency will give phone and cable companies until June 20, 2021, to comply with the new rules and implement the Shaken/Stir protocol to authenticate the origin of a call and automatically block it if it’s from an illegal robocaller. 

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