Lawmakers take new steps to stop annoying robocalls

Legislation would require phone companies to do more to stop 'spoofed' calls

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - No matter what we do, robocalls keep coming. While some are just annoying, others can be frightening. But you're not the only one fed up with these unwanted phone calls -- lawmakers on Capitol Hill are too.

To help put a stop to robocalls, federal lawmakers are focused on legislation that would beef up existing laws and ensure that phone companies implement technologies to reduce “spoofed” calls, where scammers mask their identity with fake numbers that might look familiar or local.

SIGN CONSUMER REPORTS' PETITION:
Demand for anti-robocall technology

“The protections that are currently in place haven’t done enough to stop robocalls that are incessantly hounding consumers, so the proposals in Congress would require telephone phone companies to implement better technologies that would stop spoofed calls -- this would be a major win for consumers,” explained Consumer Reports Advocacy Expert Kara Kelber. 

Robocalls are not only annoying; they’re also costing people billions of dollars. Jeri Vargas, a caretaker for her mother who has Alzheimer's disease, says her mom has been scammed numerous times from unwanted calls.

“If I count the products that came for home repairs and services that were not legitimate, it would probably run into the hundreds or thousands,” Vargas explained.

According to Consumer Reports, in the last 12 months, consumers lost an estimated $10.5 billion to phone scams.

“Robocalls have become the scourge for consumers. They are the consumer plague of our time,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. 

So how can you protect yourself now? Consumer Reports says you can try using your phone carrier’s anti-robocall service.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM ROBOCALLS:
Options from Consumer Reports to deal with the deluge

Many companies offer alerts to tell consumers that an incoming call may be from a telemarketer, and others offer services that block calls from likely scammers. To find out what your phone carrier offers, visit its website and look for links referring to call security or call blocking.

Also available are third-party robocall-blocking apps. Consumer Reports says Nomorobo, Hiya, and YouMail offer call-protection options. 

If you believe you have received an illegal call or text, you can file a complaint with the FCC:
File online or call 888-225-5322.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2019 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.