Finally: The FCC Is Fighting Back Against Robocalls

iStock/Hailshadow / iStock/Hailshadow

Much to the despair of anyone with a phone number, we are living in the golden age of robocalls. It's cheaper and easier than ever for spammers all over the world to mass-call millions of people, usually spoofing phone numbers to make it look like the call is coming from someone in the same area code. There is some good news, though. According to The Verge, the FCC is finally proposing to fine robocallers who use fake numbers.

For the first time, the agency has proposed two hefty fines against companies over the use of robocalls that used spoofed numbers to hide the caller's name from consumers. The agency has suggested an $82 million penalty for one telemarketing company it says made 21 million spoofed robocalls over three months in late 2016 and early 2017 selling health insurance. It has also suggested a $37.5 million penalty for an Arizona-based telemarketing firm that it says made 2 million spoofed robocalls offering remodeling services over the course of 14 months starting in 2016.

"Accurate caller ID information allows consumers to make informed decisions about which calls to accept, ignore, or block, and whether the party on the other end of the phone line is reputable and deserving of their trust," the commission wrote in its notice to Affordable Enterprises of Arizona, the company that used spoofed calls to sell remodeling services. Many of the consumers who received calls from the company were on the Do Not Call list, making it illegal to contact them. (The companies don't have to pay up immediately; they can either fight the proposal or settle with the FCC.)

By 2019, up to half of all calls made to cell phones will be from spammers, according to one estimate from First Orion, a company that provides anti-spam technology to phone companies. Unfortunately for consumers, these fines might not change that by much. While the threat of financial penalties might deter some telemarketers from using spoofed numbers to convince consumers to pick up the phone (as well as illegally calling people on the Do Not Call list), it probably won't radically reduce the number of annoying telemarketing calls you get. Many robocalls come from outside the U.S., meaning the FCC doesn't have a lot of leverage against those companies.

To significantly reduce the amount of robocalls that come to your phone, you're probably better off using technology than waiting for government regulators to step in. Some phone carriers, third-party apps, and new cell phones offer scam-call blocking capabilities, which, in the short run, may offer you more protection than the FCC can.

[h/t The Verge]