It’s happened to all of us. You sit down for dinner and then the phone rings. You get up to answer, thinking it may be an important call from family or friends, but instead, it’s an automated message. Or your phone rings while you’re at work and since it has an Oklahoma area code, you answer thinking it’s a call from your bank or doctor’s office. But it’s actually a stranger who is spoofing a familiar phone number trying to scam you.
Unwanted robocalls are annoying and nobody likes them. On average, Americans receive nearly 5 billion robocalls a month, which is about 2,000 robocalls every second of every day. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than half of all calls placed this year will be robocalls. These illegal calls are out of control.
Bad robocalls and spoofing are not only annoying, they can also be dangerous. Scam artists use these tactics to defraud consumers. For example, an unknown caller tells a senior citizen to send money for a medical bill they haven’t paid so they send the money. But in reality, it’s not someone trying to collect a bill, it’s a criminal exploiting the senior. Recently, there has been a spike in international callers spoofing local numbers to call people in Oklahoma with the goal of having them call the number back, which racks up international fees on your phone bill.
Last year, a medical center in Massachusetts was slammed with illegal robocalls that overwhelmed the staff. They had no choice but to answer the 4,500 calls during the two-hour time frame because they had no way of knowing if it were a real phone call or not. These robocalls calls compromised their ability to care for patients and respond to situations that are life or death. We cannot let this continue.
Congress came together to help the American people take back their phones and stop living in fear of illegal automated and spam calls. H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, passed the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously and will be up for a vote on the House floor this week, where we expect it to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.
This legislation would require service providers to implement technology to restore the reliability of caller IDs, allow carriers to offer call blocking services at no additional charge to the consumer, direct the FCC to issue new rules protecting consumers from unsolicited calls, and ensure that the FCC has the tools necessary to pursue quick action against robocallers once they have been identified.
The American people should be able to trust our telecommunications systems and live without the harassment of these bad actors. It’s time to hang up on bad robocalls and I’m proud that my colleagues and I were able to get this done for them.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701