The Federal Communications Commission is expanding its war on robocalls.
New rules, proposed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and expected to be voted on at the agency’s Aug. 1 meeting, would ban the use of fake numbers in international robocalls and text messages.
This “spoofing” technique uses a false caller ID, to make it appear as if the perpetrator is calling or texting from a nearby location, as a way to get recipients to answer or respond.
As regulators combat robocalls, more are coming from overseas, they say. In the first half of 2019, the FCC got more than 35,000 complaints about caller ID spoofing.
“Call center fraudsters often pretend to be calling from trusted organizations and use pressure tactics to steal from Americans,” Pai said in a statement. “We must attack this problem with every tool we have. With these new rules, we’ll close the loopholes that hamstring law enforcement when they try to pursue international scammers and scammers using text messaging.”
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Last month, the FCC passed new rules that let phone companies block robocalls to their customers’ home phones or mobile devices. Some landline and cellular providers currently offer call blocking tools, but phone subscribers must opt-in to use them. The FCC’s rule lets service providers block calls as a default.
The FCC also wants providers by the end of the year to adopt new technologies that will verify callers’ ID on their networks, before they get to subscriber phones.
These new anti-spoofing rules, if passed, would allow the FCC to enforce actions taken beyond the U.S. Regulators could possibly seize foreign actors’ U.S.-based assets and work with foreign governments to curtail them.
Earlier this year, the FCC sought public input on these rule changes and a group of 42 attorneys general offered their support.
“The proposed rule changes would broaden the authority of the Commission to hold these criminals accountable for the significant harm they inflict on U.S. consumers,” they wrote in a May letter to the FCC. “As State Attorneys General on the front lines fighting these scammers, we are acutely aware that many of these calls are coming from criminals, located overseas, utilizing caller ID spoofing, and we are also seeing more scams being perpetrated via text message.”
In May, the FCC warned about the “one ring” scam, a type of robocall that sought to bait consumers into calling the number back, so they could be billed toll charges, similar to calling a 900 number. Many of those calls were using “222,” the country code of the West African nation of Mauritania.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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