Guest Columnist

Hanging up on robocalls

The explosion of so-called robocalls has prompted growing anger among consumers and a rare moment of bipartisan action in Congress. The Senate passed legislation to rein in spam calls by a vote of 97 to 1 in May 2019. The House passed its own version of robocall legislation nearly unanimously in late July — just three of Congress’ 435 members voted against it. (Dreamstime/TNS)
The explosion of so-called robocalls has prompted growing anger among consumers and a rare moment of bipartisan action in Congress. The Senate passed legislation to rein in spam calls by a vote of 97 to 1 in May 2019. The House passed its own version of robocall legislation nearly unanimously in late July — just three of Congress’ 435 members voted against it. (Dreamstime/TNS)

When we visit with constituents, some of the most common and persistent consumer complaints are about those irritating and sometimes frightening robocalls that we’re all bombarded with day and night.

Robocalls are recorded messages from scam artists to unsuspecting consumers. The scammers often use automatic dialers to make large batches of calls that are designed to get consumers to provide financial or personal information.

Robocalls are on the rise, with 26 billion calls placed in the U.S. just last year. We know that Iowans are tired of getting these calls around the clock. They not only keep cellphones ringing non-stop, but they are burdensome and potentially costly.

That’s why we made it a priority to address the issue by proposing a statewide legislative solution to crack down on these fraudulent calls and protect Iowans from these scammers. But as we worked to implement this policy, we learned that, ultimately, a state-level solution would not be practical, as robocalling is a national problem.

We are happy to learn that many state attorneys general from across the country have joined together with the national telephone industry to protect consumers from unscrupulous scammers. In June, the Federal Communications Commission finally ruled that carriers could block robocalls for their customers by default — without requiring a customer to opt in first.

Now, many of the telephone companies will be able to deliver free services that automatically block fraud calls, provide screen alerts for suspected spam calls and help protect smartphones from potential threats. AT&T, for example, is now able to offer its Call Protect service by default; customers will now automatically get the free service. These kinds of solutions are exactly what we were hoping the telephone industry would be able to deliver.

The FCC also provides resources for consumers at fcc.gov/unwanted-calls.

We urge our constituents to access resources available to protect themselves from potential scams, and we continue to urge telephone companies to remain vigilant in our shared goal of protecting Iowans from the risks and the hassle of robocalls.

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State Sen. Ken Rozenboom is a Republican from Oskaloosa. State Rep. Dean Fisher is a Republican from Montour.

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