Robocalls Won't End With Trump's Signature

Enforcement of new law won't be easy, but free call-blocking services are coming
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 31, 2019 9:15 AM CST
Why Robocalls Won't End With Trump's Signature
This Aug. 1, 2017, file photo, shows a call log displayed via an AT&T app on a cellphone in Orlando, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

An anti-robocall measure signed into law Monday by President Trump should help reduce the torrent of unwanted calls promising lower interest rates or pretending to be the IRS, though it won't make all such calls disappear, reports the AP. Under federal law, it's already illegal to fake numbers on Caller ID to defraud or cause harm. Scams are also prohibited, as are automated telemarketing calls from legitimate companies that don't have written permission. But enforcement has been tough as many of the callers are overseas. The new law, giving authorities more enforcement powers, builds on steps taken by the FCC as well as state attorneys general and industry groups. The FCC has clarified that phone companies can block unwanted calls without first asking customers, paving the way to broaden the rollout of call-blocking services. The law says phone companies cannot charge for these services.

Another important step is getting rid of "spoofed" numbers, or when a scammer fakes Caller ID to look like it's coming from the same area code or an important government agency like the IRS. The industry is developing a system to tell people when the Caller ID number is real. The new law requires all phone companies to put this system in place. It also calls on the FCC and phone companies to come up with an alternative for those customers whose phones don't support the technology. Home phones connected to an old-school copper landline is one example. The law also calls for tougher fines when individuals intentionally violate the law and pushes the FCC to work with the Justice Department to go after criminals. Nonetheless, determined scammers and telemarketers will likely find ways to get through. Of note: The law does nothing about telemarketing calls that aren't automated.

(Read more robocalls stories.)

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