Almost everyone gets robocalls or other unwanted telemarketing calls at some point. The number of robocalls has skyrocketed in recent years. There were three million robocalls made to consumers in February 2018 alone, and the problem is growing. For instance, the FTC received 3.4 million robocall complaints in 2016, and the next year that number grew to 4.5 million complaints.
The government has made efforts to stop robocalls, but the problem persists.
In 1991, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This legislation was designed to address the growing number of telemarketing calls. Since then, the FCC and FTC created the Do Not Call Registry. There, consumers can let telemarketers know that they do not want to be called.
The FTC banned most robocalls. It is now against federal rules for telemarketers to use robocalls without prior written consent. Telemarketers also must provide a way for consumers to immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling during the call. However, many telemarketers violate these rules.
Seniors receive millions of unwanted calls, many of which are scams.
It is not only telemarketers that use robocalls. Scammers, many of whom prey on seniors, adept at using robocalls. The number of scam phone calls has skyrocketed — up to 30% of all phone calls made in the United States. One report estimated that this year, half of all phone calls will be scam calls.
Seniors are the target of many scammers. Scammers pretend to be government entities, investors, creditors, sweepstakes promoters, or even grandchildren needing money. Seniors lose an estimated $37 billion to scammers each year. As such, advocates for seniors have a particular interest in trying to limit abusive robocalls.
In April 2018, advocates on behalf of several consumer protection agencies testified in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. They made various suggestions as to how the FCC could boost its consumer protections when it comes to robocalls. Above all, it is important that the government do more to stop these abusive robocalls.