“I have done 20 town halls in my district so far this year, and I can’t think of a time that this question didn’t come up about what we are doing to stop robocalls,” said Walden during a hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee today. “This has escalated to a real problem for consumers and they’ve had it. And they’ve rightfully had it, and we’ve had it. So you’re seeing an all hands on deck approach here.” Last Congress, Walden helped pass into law the RAY BAUM’S Act, which prohibited spoofing calls or texts originating outside the United States and provided the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) more authority to protect consumers from robocalls. The RAY BAUM’S Act also required the FCC to work with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to educate Americans about their options to stop these illegal calls.
These robocalls come from bad actors who use autodialing technology to scam consumers, often by maliciously “spoofing” their caller ID information to mask the caller’s true identity and instead make the call appear like it is coming from a local source.
One witness who works in the health care industry testified during today’s hearing that robocalls also threaten patients and medical providers. “In recent months, many consumers, including some patients and their families, have been targeted by robocallers who use ‘spoofed’ numbers identical to the hospitals in an effort to gain sensitive information,” said Dave Summitt, Chief Information Security Officer of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. “Even more concerning is that this practice can jeopardize the line of communication between health providers and patients by casting doubt on the integrity of calls coming from the hospital or their care provider.”
Hard-working Americans have also been tricked into picking up countless calls like this and then have been bullied into paying what they think is an outstanding debt, only to send money or some other form of compensation to the fraudster who maliciously spoofed the phone number with the intent to deceive and scam. Walden highlighted the need for Congress to redouble efforts to crack down on the bad actors perpetrating these crimes.
“Bad actors’ tricks evolved beyond our Do Not Call Registry and will likely find an avenue around our next effort. So we need to stay vigilant,” said Walden. “The more friction that we create against these criminals -- and I call them criminals because that’s what they are -- and the more focused public-private partnerships amongst industry, consumer groups, and the government are in rooting out this problem, I think we can make real strides here in helping American consumers.”