January 29, 2020

Fighting Spoofing: States Are Passing Their Own Robocall Laws

Despite robocall laws passed by the federal government, people still say that they receive a lot of unwanted calls. In fact, robocalls have increased significantly over the last couple of years. In 2017, Americans received about 18 billion robocalls. That number rose to 26.3 billion robocalls, a 46% increase, in 2018.

States Pass Anti-Robocall Laws

It’s easy to understand why people hate robocalls so much. The calls often come at the least convenient time, such as during dinner and right after you get home. Disreputable companies choose these times because they know that they have a better chance of getting you to answer.

Robocalls can also make it possible for criminals to commit phishing scams. By using robocall technology, organizations can contact thousands of people quickly.

To make matters worse, phone number spoofing can change incoming calls to look like they’re coming from local businesses, trusted companies, or government agencies. If a few people fall for the scam, then the criminals make enough money to keep trying.

The FCC takes these problems seriously. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have complete control over what laws get passed and enforced. In response, many states say that they will pass their own laws to protect residents from robocalls and spoofing.

Federal Robocall Laws That Protect Consumers

Before you can understand why states want to pass anti-spoofing and robocall laws, you need to know about similar laws passed by the federal government.

Currently, the federal government has three primary robocall laws that protect consumers.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) did a lot of great things for American residents. The wide-reaching law set rules that:

  • Prohibits solicitors from calling households before 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Establishes a National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Requires companies to create their own Do Not Call lists.
  • Forces solicitors to give their names and telephone numbers during calls.
  • Forbids using automated or artificial voices when calling residences.
  • Prohibits robodialing for companies that use two or more lines.

TCPA also establishes potential losses for companies that don’t follow the law. A person who gets unwanted calls that break the law can sue the company for $500 for each violation. Companies that willfully violate the law can get sued for $1,500 for each violation.

Telemarketing Sales Rule

The Telemarketing Sales Rule gives consumers some additional protections by:

  • Limiting the time of day a company can call residences.
  • Requiring telemarketers to disclose information about who they are and who they represent.
  • Prohibiting telemarketers from misrepresenting themselves.
  • Establishing payment restrictions for some goods and services.
  • Prohibiting companies from contacting numbers of the Do Not Call Registry.

The Federal Communications Commission Rule

After years of passing robocall laws and suing companies that didn’t follow the rules, problems still persisted in 2019. In response, the FCC passed a rule allowing phone companies to block robocalls before they reach home phones and mobile devices.

Some legislators want to go further by requiring phone companies to block robocalls. Even if such a law were passed, some solicitors would find ways to get around the blocks.

Why States Pass Their Own Robocall Laws

The federal government has passed several robocall laws that prevent unwanted calls and spoofing. Unfortunately, millions of people still get unwanted calls per year.

The FCC is studying the effects of a system called STIR/SHAKEN that would require telecommunication companies to establish a protocol that accurately identifies numbers. As of 2019, though, the federal agency has not set a STIR/SHAKEN requirement.

Perhaps as a result, the surge in robocalls has forced states to establish their own laws.

State Robocall Laws That Offer Additional Protections

Will state laws work? Let’s look at some high-profile cases to see how states plan to handle problems with robocalls and number spoofing.

Arkansas Anti-Spoofing Law

Arkansas’s 2019 anti-spoofing law doesn’t change the federal rules for robocalls and spoofing. Instead, it enhances the criminal penalties for companies that break laws. Arkansas will also create an oversight process for phone providers.

South Carolina Telephone Privacy Protection Act

South Carolina’s Telephone Privacy Protection Act repeats many of the federal spoofing and robocalling laws. According to the updated state law, solicitors must:

  • Make their calls during certain times of the day.
  • Avoid contacting people who have said they do not want contact.
  • Play pre-recorded identifications and opt-out messages at the beginnings of calls.

Louisiana Senate Bill 204

Louisiana Senate Bill 204 outlaws phone number spoofing. The state’s legislators believe that spoofing has made it easier for Louisiana residents to become the targets of scams that cause financial loss, harassment, and loss of personal information.

Illinois SB1284

Illinois SB1284 makes Caller ID spoofing illegal. Those who knowingly break the law can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense. Further offenses become Class A misdemeanors.

Massachusetts Act Clarifying Telephone Solicitation

Most of the Act Clarifying Telephone Solicitation gives definitions for terms like “mobile telephone,” “robocall,” and “robocall telephone solicitor.” The act creates a firm legal understanding to prevent solicitors from finding loopholes.

The act also gives Massachusetts the right to charge and fine solicitors that break the rules. Knowing violating the law has a $10,000 fine. It also establishes the rights of individuals to sue solicitors for at least $10,000 per violation.

Ohio House Bill 597

Ohio House Bill 597 prohibits misleading caller ID. It also prohibits telephone number theft, which is interesting.

Maryland Caller ID Spoofing Ban of 2018

The Caller ID Spoofing Ban of 2018 outlines a number of rules that solicitors must follow when calling Maryland residents. As the law’s name suggests, companies cannot use spoofed numbers to make themselves seem local or more trustworthy.

California Consumer Call Protection Act

The Consumer Call Protection Act requires all telecommunication providers in California to start using STIR/SHAKEN protocols by 2021. STIR/SHAKEN protocols use a system of certificates to correctly identify phone numbers and prevent spoofing.

Texas House Bill 1992

Texas House Bill 1992 follows the federal laws for robocalling. It does, however, make evident that the Texas attorney general has the right to prosecute telemarketing companies that use fraudulent phone numbers.

Keep Your Numbers Safe With Help From Caller ID Reputation

Ideally, you can keep your phone numbers safe by following rules established by federal and state lawmakers. Unfortunately, the anger that people feel toward robocalling and spoofing often means that they report solicitations from companies that stick to the law.

No matter how carefully a telemarketing company behaves, some of its numbers could get targeted. Once that happens, the numbers will get blocked by telecom carriers and apps. Someone from the government might even start an investigation.

Protect your phone numbers with help from Caller ID Reputation. Contact Caller ID Reputation today to learn more about how you can follow the law and prevent your numbers from getting flagged.

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