Robo Calls, Spoof Calls and Phone Scams on the Rise By: Dan Cryan & Dan Woomer

We are all experiencing the rise of Robo Calls, Spoof Calls and Phone Scams.

Efforts are being made by our representatives, and legislation is in Congress, to strengthen the laws to stop these irritating and harassing calls. Attached at the bottom of this posting are text copies of recent responses from Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Ruppersberger, outlining Congress’ efforts to stop Robo Calls, Spoof Calls and Phone Scams

What Can You Do Now?

There are a few actions you can take to cut into the number of these unwanted calls.

FIRST –

The first thing to do is to register or verify your phone number(s) are registered at the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. You can verify up to three (3) phone numbers are registered at one time. Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry website at: https://www.donotcall.gov/. Here’s the three (3) step process:

Type in up to three (3) phone numbers you want to verify are in the registry, enter your email address, and click “Submit.”

You will be asked to check that the information you entered is correct. If correct, click “Verify,” if you have typed in something incorrect, click on “Change.”

Once you click “Verify”, within a few minutes you should receive an email for each phone number registered in the email address you entered from Verify@donotcall.gov. If your phone number is registered, each email will tell you the date of registration. If your phone number is not registered and you want it to be, you will be directed to the National Do Not Registry to register you phone number(s).

Repeat this process for all of your phone numbers.

SECOND –

Many of current and immediate prior wireless phone systems we have in our homes have a “Block Number” feature. If you receive an unwanted called from one of these telemarketers or scammers, and you have taken the call, don’t be polite, press the “Block This Number” button and hang up. If you haven’t taken the call, and there is no voicemail, it is likely a telemarketer or scammer. Use your phone system’s CID capability, and see the phone number that just called you. Write this down, and use your system’s call blocker to block this number.

Earlier systems, have the capability to see the number that just called. With these systems, if you answer an unwanted call, hang up. Use your phone system’s CID capability, and see the phone number that just called you. Write this down.

Contact your phone service provider. Many providers include call blocking as part of your services. Ask them the process to provide them with the phone numbers you want blocked, and provide them the phone numbers you have collected.

Here are some links to the phone service providers:

Verizon –

www.verizon.com/support/residential/homephone/calling-features/stop-unwanted-calls

Xinity/Comcast

www.xfinity.com/mobile/support/article/360000902823/

AT&T

www.att.com/help/robocalling.html

T-Mobile

support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-23906

Metro PCS

www.quora.com/How-do-you-block-phone-numbers-on-Metro-PCS

Cricket

www.cricketwireless.com/support/fraud-protection/fraud-overview.html

If your phone service provider is not listed above, Google them to get info on blocking calls.

THIRD –

You can report the call and phone number to Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry website at: https://www.donotcall.gov/. Click on “Report Unwanted Calls.”

Once your phone number has been on the Do Not Call Registry for 31 days, you can report unwanted sales calls.

Robocalls: Report calls that use a recorded message instead of a live person (whether or not your number is on the Registry).

You will be asked to describe what the call was about. Check the category that best describes what the call was about, for example debt reduction, home security or vacations.

Reminder: Even if your phone number is registered, some organizations may still call you, such as charities, political organizations, and telephone surveyors. For a full description of who may still call you, please consult the website’s Consumer FAQs.

Debt collectors may continue to call you whether your number is on the Registry or not. Know your rights regarding debt collection. If a debt collector is not respecting your rights, there is a link on the website to report them.

FOURTH -

You can purchase a phone number blocker, also known as a Call Blocker. Various devices from various manufacturers are available online. These are pretty effective. If you chose to purchase a call blocker, do some homework and pick the one you believe meets your needs. Also shop around, like most items available for purchase online, prices vary. Be sure to make your purchase from a source that has a good to excellent rating.

You want to place your call blocker in front of your phone system’s base unit, so it intercepts blocked numbers and none of your system’s phones, the one on the base unit or any of the remotes, will ring if a blocked phone number tries to call into your home. If you have older wired phones, place the unit before your answering machine. While your phones will ring, a blank or unwanted voicemail will not be recorded.

IMPORTANT –

If you pick up and answer a robo telemarketing or spam call, NEVER SAY YES. Your response will be recorded and used to charge you as you will be subscribed to some service that you had no intention of purchasing. Once this occurs, getting these services and their charges cancelled can be very challenging.

The telemarketer may ask questions, such as: “Am I Speaking to (your name)?” “Can you hear me okay?” “May I have a few minutes of your time?” Again, NEVER SAY YES. If available on your phone system, or if you have installed a Call Blocker, press the “Block This Number Button.”

We were all taught to be polite. Telemarketers and Phone Scammers, count on you being polite. This is one-time when politeness WILL hurt you. If you suspect the caller is a telemarketer or phone scammer – HUNG UP. There is no need to be polite to someone who is trying to scam and/or steal you.

If you want to check out a phone number, the Whitepages Directory Services offers a free online service. Go to: www.whitepages.com/phone/. Enter the phone number in the format of NPA-NXX-XXXX.

NPA = Area code assigned to a Numbering Plan Area

NXX = Prefix or \"exchange\" assigned to a central office

XXXX = Local number or "subscriber number"

If known, the service’s response will provide some information on the owner’s identification. Don’t be surprised if the service’s response says “Suspect Telemarketer,” “Telemarketer,” “Suspected Scammer,” “Scammer,” or other similar identifying descriptions.

Bottomline –

Use your answering machine to screen your calls. Once you can identify who is calling as someone you want to talk with, pick up and answer the call.

If you answer the call, be careful on what you say until you have identified the caller as someone you know and feel comfortable with.

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Responses from Senator Van Hollen & Congressman Ruppersberger

From: Office of Senator Chris Van Hollen [mailto:SenatorVanHollen@vanhollen.senate.gov]

Sent: Monday, March 25, 2019 11:26 AM

To: dan cryan

Subject: Reply from Senator Van Hollen

Dear Mr. Cryan:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the unwanted marketing, robocalls and "spoofed" calls that you are receiving. I regret that you are having this disturbing experience. I am very concerned by the increased number of callers and phone scammers who use "spoofing" technology to misrepresent the number from which they are calling.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are working to combat call-spoofing, robocalls and phone scams. The FCC is responsible for regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in the U.S., whereas the FTC is responsible for taking action against practices that are unfair or deceptive. They also rely on assistance from consumers like you to help alert them to new scams when they arise.

Some of the efforts the FTC and FCC have undertaken include the following:

The FTC held a contest to identify possible solutions to robocalls and spoof calls. One of the winners, Nomorobo, intercepts robocalls for certain types of phone service. Nomorobo offers services for both landline and mobile phones. You can find more information on Nomorobo at www.nomorobo.com.On August 19, 2016, the FCC hosted the first meeting of the “Robocall Strike Force,” an industry-led group that is committed to developing comprehensive solutions to prevent, detect, and filter unwanted robocalls. You can watch a recording of this meeting on the FCC website at:https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2016/08/first-meeting-industry-led-robocall-strike-force.

On April 28, 2017, the industry-led Robocall Strike Force released an updated report detailing its efforts, which can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/file/12311/download.

In October 2017, the Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing entitled, “Still Ringing Off the Hook: An Update on Efforts to Combat Robocalls,” during which law enforcement and representatives from the telecommunications industry discussed how they are working together to crack down on unwanted phone calls. The Senate also passed Seniors Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 This bill is now awaiting action in the House of Representatives. By improving monitoring and information on these frauds, the FTC may build best practices that can help on other robocall issues as well.

In April 2018, I joined 14 of my Senate colleagues in sending a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to use existing legal authority to ensure that key robocall and robotext protections are in effect after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down portions of a 2015 FCC order limiting the definition of “auto dialers” and discouraging callers from making more than one unwanted call to a reassigned number. The Court’s ruling could also be interpreted to suggest that callers could limit consumers’ rights to revoke consent to receive robocalls and robotexts through provisions buried in contracts or service agreements.

Also in April 2018, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled, “Abusive Robocalls and How We Can Stop Them.” During the hearing, Senators questioned Adrian Abramovich, the so-called, “King of Robocalls,” who testified under subpoena and faces $120 million in FCC penalties for allegedly making nearly 100 million robocalls nationwide.

In June 2018, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act was introduced in both the Senate and the House. This bill ensures that the FCC has the authority and the tools to take strong, quick action when it tracks down robocallers, allows consumers to revoke consent they had previously given to receive calls, creates a database to put robocallers on notice when a telephone number they may have previously been authorized to call has been given to a new customer who hasn’t authorized their call, limits the number of robocalls exempted under current law and FCC rules, and requires calls to have verified caller identification information. This legislation is supported by the National Consumer Law Center and Consumers Union.

I will continue to engage with the FTC and FCC to identify when they may need additional legal authority to do their work.

I hope that you find this information helpful. If you have any questions or think that I can be of further assistance, please contact Nina Ganti of my staff at (301) 545-1500 or nina_ganti@vanhollen.senate.gov

Sincerely,

Chris Van Hollen

United States Senator

P.S. Please visit my website. While there, you can view press releases and statements, see what legislation I have sponsored or co-sponsored and receive information on the various constituent services provided by my office.

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From: Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger <imamd02@mail.house.gov>

Sent: Friday, March 22, 2019 1:50:37 PM

To: dan cryan

Subject: Reply from Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger

March 22, 2019

Mr. Daniel Cryan

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Linthicum Heights, Maryland 21090

Dear Mr. Cryan:

One of the best parts of my job is hearing from constituents. I appreciate that you have taken the time to share with me your thoughts on robo-calls, and I welcome this opportunity to respond.

I have received a number of robo-calls myself, and I agree with you how frustrating the frequency of these calls can be. These calls are unsolicited and are, in some cases, illegal. In fact, at a recent Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, a representative from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlined the increase in robo call consumer complaints the FTC has received; 3.5 million through August in 2017 – up from 3.4 million in the entire calendar year of 2016.

Congress has continued to put pressure on the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to find solutions to this problem and I support these efforts. The FTC and telecommunication industry created a strike force and has had some success in blocking illegal scam phone calls, including fake IRS debt collector calls. Currently, the strike force, along with the FCC, is finalizing recommendations to give telecommunications carriers more power to block these types of phone calls. I will continue to support Congress’ efforts to ensure the FTC and FCC are giving industry the proper regulatory guidance they need to protect consumers from unwanted solicitations and illegal scammers.

Feel free to contact my telecommunications staff member, Elliott Phaup, in my Washington, DC, office should you have any questions and please continue to share your thoughts with me. To stay current on issues that are facing Congress and your community, please visit my website at www.dutch.house.gov and sign up for my periodic e-mail newsletter. I also encourage you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Sincerely,

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Member of Congress

Note: Please do not reply directly to this e-mail. I ask that you use the e-mail form on my website.