Let FCC know about scammers

If your household is being bombarded by robocalls and you’re irritated about your inability to stop them, now is the right time for you to sound off.

Until July 31, the Federal Communications Commission is accepting public comment on the FCC chairman’s proposed rules to allow telephone service providers to block several kinds of “spoofed” calls that scammers oftentimes use when they send robocalls.

“Spoofing” occurs when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to a Caller ID display to disguise the caller’s identity.

The practice oftentimes is part of an attempt to trick the person being called to disclose valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or be sold illegally.

Will Wiquist, FCC deputy press secretary, told the Mirror last week that there are two ways that consumers can provide comment — electronically or through paper filings.

People filing electronically should do so at www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express, noting the proceeding number (17-59).

People choosing to submit comments by mail should file two copies of their comments and note what they are commenting on: “Advanced Methods To Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls, CG Docket No. 17-59.” The letters should be sent to Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th St., SW, Washington, D.C. 20554.

“Scammers frequently use ‘spoofing’ when they send robocalls — a tactic which allows deceitful persons to mimic the phone numbers of legitimate businesses on the receiving party’s caller ID,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a July 5 press release. “This spoofing tactic helps scammers deceive vulnerable populations — particularly the elderly.”

Shapiro is one of 30 state attorneys general who on July 3 asked the federal government to adopt the proposed rules that would allow telephone providers to block calls originating from “spoofed” or invalid numbers, unallocated numbers, and numbers whose owners have requested be blocked.

As Shapiro’s press release pointed out, phone providers would be able to block a scammer who is using a telephone number that clearly can’t exist because it hasn’t been assigned.

In their comment to the FCC, the attorneys general called such calls a “growing menace” and, actually, that’s describing the situation mildly, since people have been scammed out of thousands of dollars through such calls.

The attorneys general rightly noted that legitimate businesses don’t need to use “spoofing” to get in touch with consumers.

According to Shapiro, Bureau of Consumer Protection officials in the Pennsylvania AG Office have received complaints from more than 4,400 consumers who have become robocall targets despite having placed their phone numbers on the do-not-call list under the Pennsylvania Telemarketer Registration Act.

The fact that the FCC is proposing to launch this new tactic doesn’t mean that the agency hasn’t been working to attack the robocall problem. The agency’s website includes a report, dated June 22 of this year, about a proposed $120 million fine against an individual who apparently made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls, in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act.

The current window for public comment is your opportunity to make a statement of support for what’s being proposed but, again, you have only until July 31 to do so. If you’re concerned about the issue, you shouldn’t neglect this opportunity.