It’s not in your head – robocalls have become out of control in the last several years. In the U.S. alone, there were an estimated 58.5 billion robocalls in 2019, 44% of which were from scammers.
While it’s already illegal in the U.S. to fake caller ID numbers or place automated telemarketing calls to consumers without their written consent, a new law signed by President Trump aims to take protections further. The legislation expands the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to penalize telemarketers and place responsibility on individual phone companies to protect their customers.
The ultimate goal of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement Deterrence (TRACED) Act, is to make it easier for Americans to identify robocalls and avoid answering them. Phone companies are now required to roll out a number-authentication technology to their consumers at no additional cost so that they know when a spam call is coming through.
Additionally, telemarketers who call without your consent will face much harsher penalties. Should they harass you without your permission, the FCC can now slap telemarketers with a penalty of up to $10,000 per call. A previous statute of limitations to prosecute illegal telemarketers has also been extended to four years to allow law enforcement more time to investigate robocall violations.
Is this the end of robocalls?
You may have already noticed fewer robocalls or new phone alerts that flag calls from numbers that seem suspicious. Many major phone companies such as T-Mobile and Verizon have already begun releasing technology that labels unknown numbers with “scam likely” or “spam likely.” According to Consumer Reports, this technology will continue to improve with time.
However, some gaps in the new bill could leave consumers unprotected. The law does not clarify how an individual is supposed to give or withdraw consent from robocallers. Without that clarification, scammers will likely continue to exploit the loopholes in the bill.
What you can do now
If robocalls are still pestering you more than you’d prefer, there are a few actions you can take today to reduce the scam calls you receive:
- List your number on the Do Not Call Registry.
- File a complaint with the FCC.
- Download robocall-blocking apps like RoboKiller or YouMail.
- Hang up immediately if you answer a robocall.
While you should start to receive fewer robocalls in 2020, the battle is far from over. Even as protections for Americans improve, scammers will continue to search for ways around them.