Beating the system: 60% of robocalls are legal, despite increased legislation

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Robocalls have reached epidemic levels, and a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds robocallers have consistently been able to stay one step ahead of government regulators.

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed a bill creating the new national “Do Not Call” Registry, declaring victory on behalf of consumers frustrated by intrusive phone calls. “The registry allows Americans to shield their homes and cellphone from most unwanted telemarketing calls,” he said.

And for a while, the volume of unwanted calls did drop. But today, there are more robocalls than ever. According to the widely quoted Youmail Robocall Index, the average American now gets 16 robocalls per day.

One look at the government’s “Do Not Call” website shows why. People are still being asked to enter the phone numbers of unwanted callers, something that can’t be done in an era of widespread spoofing.

LISTEN HERE - Walt Kane's companion podcast on robocalls for News 12 Talks New Jersey:

 

And while a subsequent law in 2009 made virtually all robocalls illegal, a series of court rulings have undermined the legislation. Last year, a federal appeals court struck down the FCC’s rules on auto-dialers, saying they were so broad they could be applied to “any conventional smartphone.”

PART 1: Ringing off the hook: How new tech is fueling the robocall explosion 

Cybersecurity expert Scott Schober says the ruling opened the floodgates for robocallers. “Sixty percent of robocalls you received on your phone are legal,” he says. “That’s astounding when you hear that. They should be illegal.”

Even when the feds do enforce the law, it doesn’t always work. Since 2015, the Federal Communications Commission has levied $208 million in fines against robocallers. But according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the FCC collected just $6,970. That means for every $100,000 in fines imposed, the government received 3 cents.

Even one of the FCC’s own commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, has publicly questioned the agency’s approach, saying, "With this one-by-one effort, we are trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon."

Wednesday: Both Congress and the phone companies put forth plans to fight the unwanted calls.

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