The federal government is giving robocall fighters more ammunition.
The Federal Trade Commission, which manages the national do-not-call registry, said Tuesday it’ll fully make available for the first time its mountains of consumer complaint data on robocalls, which are pre-taped telemarketing calls.
The data will be available for public consumption. But they’re really aimed at spurring telecommunications carriers and other technology companies to use to develop apps or other technology tools they can offer to consumers to block robocalls, said Janice Kopec, an attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Telemarketing robocalls – unless consumers proactively opt-in to receive them -- have been outlawed since 2009. But technology, such as Internet-based phones and auto-dialing software, has made it easier for telemarketers to flout the law and call consumers in hopes of selling cruises, timeshare, gadgets and services. Caller identification spoofing, in which the caller's number may be changed to the recipient’s area code, has also worsened the problem. The National Do Not Call Registry helps, but consumers have complained for years that it often doesn’t solve the problem.
The FTC received about 1.9 million complaints about unwanted robocalls in the first five months of 2017, making it the number one category of consumer complaints.
The FTC has used this massive data trove to investigate and crack down on illegal callers. But telecommunications companies have been asking the FTC to release more information so that they can expand their data analysis work in combating robocall problems.
Currently available call-blocking apps and other tools rely largely on “blacklists,” or databases of telephone numbers that have received a lot consumer complaints.
The FTC will now update its data daily and include new information, such as date and time of calls, call subject matters, names of telemarketers, the number of call repeats, and follow-up phone numbers given to consumers.
“There are a lot of call blocking solutions out there,” Kopec said. But the FTC’s latest move is about “strengthening existing products and help folks who are innovating.”
Consumers can file complaints online at identitytheft.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Feds step up fight against robocalls