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McCaskill: Current Robocall Environment is a ‘Criminal Sandbox’

Ten years after establishment of ‘Do Not Call’ list, Senator chairs hearing focused on American consumers’ biggest complaint, Zeroes in on emerging technologies to protect consumers with ‘spam filters’ for phones

July 10, 2013

WASHINGTON - Ten years after the establishment of the popular Do Not Call Registry, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today chaired a Senate hearing to examine how fraudulent robocalls are harming consumers and what new preventative measures can stop these types of scams and protect the most vulnerable Americans. McCaskill, a tech leader in the Senate, used the hearing to call on U.S. telephone providers to explore implementing technological solutions to reduce robocalls received by consumers.

"Robocallers have the technology to place massive amounts of calls, with a great profit potential-this is a criminal sandbox," said McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. "The fraudsters shouldn't be the only ones taking advantage of advances in technology, we should also be using it to stop them. We shouldn't be ten years behind Canada on this, where a robocall filtering service is already available."

McCaskill called on representatives of domestic phone companies to evaluate the feasibility of implementing technology to help filter fraudulent robocalls and report back to her within three months.

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included federal officials, representatives of the telecom industry, as well as individuals representing potential technological solutions to robocalls.

Among those representing solutions was Aaron Foss, a Freelance Software Developer for Nomorobo who shared part of a prize offered by the FTC for individuals attempting to develop technological solutions. Foss discussed his concept, which functions similarly to an email "spam folder."

"We have the capability of being as sophisticated in terms of technology as the bad guys-but currently our American carriers just aren't bothering to use it," McCaskill said.

McCaskill also noted the overwhelming number of consumer complaints. Robocalls by far make up the largest amount of complaints to the Missouri Attorney General's office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FTC alone receives over 200,000 complaints about robocalls per month, constituting the single largest type of complaint in terms of raw numbers. The FCC, meanwhile, has seen complaints about robocalls double between 2010 and 2012.

The Justice Department has estimated that consumers lose over $40 billion a year to fraudulent telemarketers in general.

McCaskill added that she believes consumers should have the option to "opt-out" of political and charitable robocalls as well, and should have full control over what types of automated calls-if any-they are receiving. She pressed government witnesses to use all tools they have available-both civil and criminal-to track down and hold those fraudsters illegally using robocalling to full account under the law.

McCaskill recently launched an online tool that allows individuals to report scams and fraud they encounter in advertising and sales. The "Submit Your Scam" button at www.McCaskill.senate.gov allows constituents to submit personal stories and tips to help McCaskill to crack down on scams and protect consumers.

Read more about McCaskill's fight to protect American consumers, HERE.

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