A prominent consumer advocacy group is calling on telephone companies to do more to block robocalls, those annoying, recorded messages that seem to keep invading our phones like, well, a horde of malicious robots.
Consumers Union, the political and advocacy wing of Consumer Reports, launched a campaign and petition Tuesday at EndRobocalls.org, saying that telephone companies already have the technology needed to stop the calls, which too often come from scammers looking to rip someone off.
For many consumers, the federal Do Not Call list, created in 2003, has cut down the number of robocalls coming from legitimate businesses. But Consumers Union says that some companies aren’t abiding by the list and that shadier types don’t care if they’re breaking the law — often targeting vulnerable consumers like the elderly.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost roughly $350 million to scammers in 2011, the most recent year for which there was complete data.
The commission received more than 3 million complaints about violations of the Do Not Call list in 2014.
“Americans are sick and tired of robocallers that invade their homes and try to rip them off with predatory scams,” said Christina Tetreault, staff attorney for Consumers Union. “It’s time for phone companies to stop dragging their feet and empower consumers to put an end to unwanted robocalls.”
Consumers Union says it’s difficult for the trade commission to police robocalls. New technology makes it easy to “spoof” a legitimate phone number and many of the calls originate from outside the United States.
Instead, they want phone companies to block the calls before they start.
Call-blocking technology uses computer programs to check incoming calls against a list of confirmed spammers and block calls from numbers that appear on the list. It also can be used to require callers to confirm they are actually humans before giving a call’s receiver the choice whether to accept it.
Apps and other blocking tools are commercially available to users of Web-based phone services and some mobile phones, but not widely for land lines or many other mobile customers.
Consumers Union also is urging the Federal Communications Commission to make it clear that such technology is legal for phone companies to use. Some have publicly questioned that.
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