EDITORIAL: Hanging up on robocalls

·2 min read

Sep. 24—Americans were bombarded with almost 46 billion robocalls last year. It's a staggering number until you realize that number was actually suppressed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, there were more than 58.5 billion such calls, up from 47.8 billion in 2017.

Many of these calls are legitimate — it's time to refill your prescription, give blood or go to the dentist for your six-month checkup. A large number of them, however, are illegal or simply annoying. Americans are expected to receive about 13 billion car warranty robocalls this year, which is stunning when you consider there are fewer than 290 million registered vehicles in the United States.

Most of us simply end the call when we realize who, or what, is on the other end of the line. Others, however find themselves duped by sophisticated criminal operations.

"How much longer are we going to tolerate people's lives being destroyed when they fall for an imposter call that looks like it's coming from their bank or the IRS?", asked Deidre Cummings of MassPIRG, the consumer advocacy group that released a report on the issue earlier this week. "This is inexcusable, it has to stop."

MassPirg estimates Americans lose $10 billion to robocall fraud each year.

Congress and phone companies have begun to address the issue but have moved too slowly to make the type of progress that consumers will recognize.

Next Tuesday, those companies are supposed to report to Congress outlining their progress in meeting the demands of a law passed in 2020 that required them to implement robocall-blocking technology by June 30.

Three months after the deadline, only 17% of phone companies have completely implemented the technology, according to MassPIRG. Some are still working on it, and more than half say they're not using industry standard technology and are instead using their own methods to block the calls.

As anyone who has received a few dozen "urgent" calls about their car warranty can tell you, plenty of calls are slipping through this half-hearted defense. And the problem is worse with smaller telecommunications companies, which have until 2023 to implement call-blocking technology. That makes them a convenient partner for robocall firms looking for a way around the new law.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting