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BOSTON – A year after a new federal law aimed at fighting robocalls, the number of phone companies that have adopted the required technology has quadrupled and the volume of scam robocalls has dropped in half. But spam texts have increased more than tenfold as con artists and identity thieves find alternative ways to steal Americans’ personal information and money.
“Too often, we hear stories about elderly people who lose their life savings after responding to someone they think is from their bank,” said Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director, MASSPIRG Education Fund. “I’d like to see regulators, lawmakers and executives from phone companies explain to that family why they haven’t done more to help their grandma.”
In a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, “Ringing in our Fears,” our analysis of the Federal Communications Commission’s robocall mitigation database of 7,514 voice providers nationwide shows:
● 1,932 have installed the industry-standard STIR/SHAKEN technology, up from 536 companies last year.
● 1,518 have partially adopted the STIR/SHAKEN technology, up from 817 companies last year.
● 3,062 have not installed STIR/SHAKEN but claim to be using their own robocall mitigation system. That compares with 1,710 companies last year. The increase reflects companies that didn’t report their status last year.
● 1,002 claimed they’re exempt from the requirements, almost all because they’re intermediate providers that don’t originate or complete calls.
The phone companies’ actions appear to be helping, but clearly, incomplete compliance has not solved our national robocall problem. The number of monthly scam robocalls has dropped from 2.1 billion to 1.1 billion in the year since the law took effect, according to a leading robocall-filtering company. While robocalls may be ringing in our ears less often, excessive robotexts are now ringing in our fears of being scammed: They have increased from 1 billion to 12 billion a month in the last year.
“We’ve focused on scam robocalls for 15 years and can’t believe we haven’t made more progress. The FCC approves new rules, Congress passes new laws, yet we still have more than a billion scam robocalls and 12 times as many robotexts a month. Americans deserve better enforcement and corporations need to take their share of responsibility.”
The report offers reasons for short-term optimism, starting with new enforcement partnerships with attorneys general nationwide, including in Massachusetts. In addition, the FCC is targeting both “gateway” providers that funnel scam calls from overseas and smaller providers that originally were exempt from the law until June 2023, but now must comply. Still, more needs to be done, including allowing public access to “traceback” data that shows which companies originate or allow scam robocalls on their lines.
“Research shows that 80 percent of us generally don’t answer calls from an unknown number,” Cummings said. “We rely on our phones, we pay good money for our phones, but it’s become a hassle to use our phones the way we want to -- to answer calls and texts. And the tales of people whose lives are wrecked by scam calls and texts are gut-wrenching. It needs to stop.”
Check out our guide: 18 tips to reduce robocalls and protect yourself from scams
How to file complaints: How to report illegal robocalls, do-not-call violations in all 50 states
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