sunny.png
Wednesday May 22nd, 2019 12:52PM

Help coming on blocking scam calls for robocall-plagued US

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — New measures by U.S. regulators could help thwart some of the billions of robocalls received in the U.S.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it will vote in June on whether to let wireless carriers block spam calls by default, which should mean that more spam calls are blocked. Right now, customers have to take the extra step of requesting tools from their carriers or downloading apps from other companies to help them weed out most unwanted calls.

The rising volume of calls in the last few years, driven by how cheap and easy it is for scammers to call millions of people as well as weak enforcement, has created pressure on Congress, regulators and phone companies to act. The volume of calls has risen to roughly 5 billion per month, according to call-blocker YouMail, from 2.7 billion in November 2017. That's when the government gave carriers explicit, although narrow, permission to block certain types of calls.

Many robocalls are not scam calls, though, but calls from debt collectors and telemarketers selling insurance, cruises and the like. It's not clear if carriers would automatically block those calls, too, said Margot Saunders, senior counsel for the National Consumer Law Center and an expert on robocalls.

Under the proposed rules, the agency won't require carriers to provide such services or mandate that the tools offered are free. Today, some of these apps cost extra money; others are free.

"We certainly are encouraging companies to offer this for free," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. He said he anticipates that companies won't charge extra because it would cost less than the headache of dealing with robocalls and customer complaints about them today. He raised the threat of regulatory action "if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers."

The agency also said Wednesday it's making clear that carriers can let customers come up with lists of numbers that they will permit to call them. That means customers could tell phone companies that any number not on their list be automatically blocked.

"There is no doubt that this can only help, that it's a good thing. My questions go to how much it helps," Saunders said, referring to whether consumers would be protected from unwanted debt-collector and telemarketing calls as well as scams.

Phone-industry group USTelecom said Pai's proposal was "big and bold" and would help stop unwanted calls from reaching consumers.

There are also bills in Congress addressing the robocall problem. A widely supported, bipartisan Senate bill would require carriers to verify that a number popping up on your caller ID is real. A big problem with robocalls is that many are "spoofed," or faked to look like they're coming from a number that matches your area code and the next three digits of your number, so you think it's a neighbor and are more likely to pick up. The industry is working on deploying this long-in-the-works system, but it's been a slow process. Pai has threatened regulatory action if it's not done this year.

The Senate bill would also give the FCC more power to fine the people responsible for spam calls and puts together federal agencies and state officials to figure out ways to pursue criminal cases against robocall scammers, not just civil ones.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Consumer News, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Help coming on blocking scam calls for robocall-plagued US
New moves by U.S. regulators could help thwart some of the billions of robocalls received in the U.S. The rising volume of calls in the last few years has created pressure on Congress, regulators and phone companies to act
11:26AM ( 6 minutes ago )
FAA chief faces questioning over Boeing 737 Max airliner
Congressional investigation into FAA approval of the Boeing 737 Max airliner heats up
11:22AM ( 10 minutes ago )
CBS defends handling of 'Bull' actor and misconduct claim
CBS is defending its handling of a sexual harassment by network star Michael Weatherly, star of the drama 'Bull'
11:20AM ( 12 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
2020 Democrats warn Alabama portends larger abortion fight
Democratic presidential candidates are condemning Alabama's approval of a ban on nearly all abortion, and warning that Republican-controlled legislatures around the country may follow suit
10:49AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Polish lawmaker panned for excusing priest who abused girls
Poland's opposition lawmakers are demanding that a member of the ruling party stop working on new laws to curb sex abuse of minors, alleging he had tried to justify the actions of a priest convicted of pedophilia
10:33AM ( 58 minutes ago )
EU candidates face off in live debate a week before polls
Leading candidates in the EU elections are facing off later Wednesday in a final televised debate before millions of people take part in the world's biggest transnational polls on May 23-26
10:02AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
AP Interview: EU elections could be boon for conservatives
The European Parliament is expected to be a different legislature after next week's election and leading conservative lawmaker Jan Zahradil is hoping that voters embrace the idea of a scaled-down European Union
3:06AM ( 8 hours ago )
Female vets to form House caucus for women who serve
Female military veterans serving in the House say they're setting up a caucus that advocates for women service members and veterans
1:22AM ( 10 hours ago )
Border wall to go up in national monument, wildlife refuge
The federal government plans on replacing barriers through 100 miles of the southern border in California and Arizona, including through a national monument and a wildlife refuge, according to documents and environmental advocates
11:03PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
US seeks new tools to counter unrelenting wave of robocalls
US regulators seek new tools to block unrelenting wave of robocalls
10:49AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Retail sales in 2019 are a wild ride, slip 0.2% in April
US retail sales slipped 0.2% in April as spending dropped on cars, clothes and appliances
10:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
US retail sales continue rocky ride, slip 0.2% in April
US retail sales slipped 0.2% in April as spending dropped on cars, clothes and appliances
9:32AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Trump calls on Congress to end 'surprise medical bills'
Trump wants quick action by Congress to end 'surprise medical bills'
3:13PM ( 5 days ago )
Sticker shock: Trump taking aim at 'surprise medical bills'
Trump wants to limit 'surprise medical bills,' the unexpected charges faced by insured patients when a member of a health care team that treated them is an out-of-network provider
12:12PM ( 5 days ago )
FTC urged by child advocates to investigate Amazon's Alexa
A kids' version of Amazon's Alexa won't forget what children tell it, even after parents try to delete the conversations, according to a report by consumer advocates
1:50AM ( 6 days ago )
AP Business - Consumer News
FAA chief faces questioning over Boeing 737 Max airliner
Congressional investigation into FAA approval of the Boeing 737 Max airliner heats up
11:22AM ( 10 minutes ago )
CBS defends handling of 'Bull' actor and misconduct claim
CBS is defending its handling of a sexual harassment by network star Michael Weatherly, star of the drama 'Bull'
11:20AM ( 12 minutes ago )
Alabama ban on nearly all abortions in GOP governor's hands
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will now decide whether to sign legislation that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state
11:18AM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: Chechs say they will continue training in Iraq
The Czech Defense Ministry says the country's military is continuing with its training operations in Iraq
11:15AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Mnuchin says courts need to settle fight over Trump's taxes
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says it's up to the courts to referee his dispute with House Democrats demanding access to President Donald Trump's tax returns
11:10AM ( 21 minutes ago )