We’ve likely all had them, maybe at least once a day — those annoying robocalls that interrupt dinner or whatever else you happen to be doing at the time. Stopping them permanently may be difficult, even impossible. But Congress continues to try, and that’s good.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., committee chairman, are co-sponsors of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which this week was sent to the full committee for a vote.
The measure tells the Federal Communications Commission to require telephone carriers, both of landline and cellular services, to use technology that prevents spoofing, which involves providing misleading caller identification. In addition, the bill would extend the statute of limitations for some robocall violations and pressure the FCC to enforce current robocall laws more strictly.
Robocalls are more than an occasional annoyance. The FCC says more than 5 billion of the calls, many of them fraudulent, were made in May alone. In 2018, for example, robocalls pitched phony health insurance policies to unsuspecting victims. So far this year, more than 25 billion robocalls have been made in the U.S. Moreover, they cost Americans billions of dollars per year, according to Truecaller, the Swedish company that makes a robocall blocker by the same name for cellphones. Even important phone lines at hospitals get besieged by them.
It’s no wonder the FCC has begun beefing up efforts against robocallers with its Operation Call It Quits campaign. And, it offers consumers suggestions for how to deal with the calls. Chief among them? Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize a telephone number, and if a robocall is answered, simply hang up without saying or doing anything.
As for the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, if it’s greeted with the same bipartisan enthusiasm a similar measure received in the Senate, it will be approved with little difficulty. Then, the two measures face the tricky business of reconciling differences between them.
Even all this effort is unlikely to eliminate robocalls permanently, unfortunately. There’s big money to be made in suckering people, and robocallers will no doubt find new ways to reach victims. That said, both Congress and the FCC must keep trying.