Washington, DC – The phone rings. You see a government agency is calling. You hear a monotone voice on the other line claiming to be the IRS asking for your social security number for your stimulus check.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the primary consumer protection agency, has cited this as a common scam targeting American consumers during COVID-19. This is real and downright frightening. Robocalls are something that each of us have experienced, and to our dismay, they have continued during this unprecedented time. While we have seen Americans across communities coming together to help one another as this pandemic continues, we have also seen bad actors try to exploit these unprecedented times to take advantage of consumers through telemarketing schemes.
These culprits are targeting innocent Americans – seniors, small businesses, families, workers, and even hospitals on the front lines – to promote fake cures, therapies, preventative measures, and more. They claim to be government agencies in need of your social security, Medicare, and bank account information, and make their caller ID appear to be under an agency’s name.
As Americans adjust their daily lives to inside their homes and are seeking everything from treatments to personal protective equipment to toilet paper, Americans need answers – not robocall scams. Luckily, a new law passed by Congress last year is already beginning to put an end to these burdensome calls and hold the culprits behind them accountable.
Last year, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate came together to introduce the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which the President signed into law on December 30, 2019. The bipartisan, bicameral bill gave new tools to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop the number of robocalls, and to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute scammers and fraudsters.
Laws take time to implement, but we have seen the TRACED Act at work – and results for American consumers are already underway. There’s more work to be done for sure, but the FCC issued a rule in late March that requires all service providers to implement framework from the TRACED Act in the Internet Protocol (IP) parts of their networks by June 30, 2021. Over the next year we will be able to see providers use this framework which will in turn reduce illegal spoofing, help law enforcement catch the culprits behind these illegal scam robocalls, and allow providers to stop these calls before they reach consumers.
This week the FCC also issued a Notice of Public Rulemaking aimed at better protecting Americans from one-ring scams. They also asked for comment on proposals for implementing requirements from the TRACED Act to protect consumers from these scams.
We must be vigilant and make sure we crack down as scammers find creative ways to take advantage of consumers. Americans have stepped up to help others during this time, we have no doubt enforcement entities and the industry will do the same. The public health and safety of communities across the nation depends on it. As Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH) highlighted in a recent video, learn more about how to look out for these calls and stay safe by visiting fcc.gov/covid-scams.