If you thought robocalls–those annoying automated telephone calls–were out of control, you are right, and the numbers are mind-boggling.
Government figures show American consumers received 4.9 billion robocalls in the month of March alone. Here in the Buffalo metro area, consumers have received 207 million robocalls since January 1.
Congress is now trying to crack down on robocalls with a measure entitled, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) says the bill has received bi-partisan support.
“This is a huge problem that runs from the annoying to the dangerous, and we have to do something about it.”
Schumer cited Sports City Pizza Pub, on Niagara Street in Buffalo as example of the impact robocalls can have on a business.
Owner Mike Rizzo said his phones are tied up about 20 to 25 times a day by robocalls, on average, making it difficult for his customers to get through.
“Some customers may be trying to call to order pizza–everyone enjoys it. So if they have a busy line, some might call back in a few minutes, some might just go elsewhere.”
Schumer said the TRACED Act, which is co-sponsoring, would raise fines on robocallers to $10,000 per offense. triple the statute of limitations for filing charges against offenders to three years, and require telephone companies to set up effective ways of tracing the source of those robocalls.
“Verizon, AT&T, can trace exactly where the call is coming from,” even when scammers are trying to hide their identities through a techniques known as Caller ID spoofing, “they can stop the call because they know where it is coming from and they will know that this is a scammer, and they can stop it.”
Schumer added, consumers can download various applications that could curtail robocalls, but the apps would not shut down the annoying calls completely unless all of the phone companies participate.