You don't have to go far to find someone complaining about robocalls, especially during the campaign season. While not every call is illegal, most are unwanted, and the FCC is trying to cut down the number of both.
"If they don't have enough volunteers willing to make calls for them, then why should I listen to their machines?" asks Patricia Patton who isn't even answering her phone this time of year. "Everyone I talk to is the same was as I, that I am. They don't answer the phone, they erase their messages without even listening to them. And everybody's tired of it."
We told Patricia about a free app that you can download for smartphones that block or screen unwanted robocalls.
"Awesome!" says Patton. "That's awesome! I have to have that app."
According to the Federal Communications Commission, Patton is like most Americans. During a meeting last week of the Robocall Strike Force, fewer than 10% of people use technology already available to block unwanted or illegal robocalls.
The commission, along with more than 30 companies make up the strike force, which has three main goals: the first is to increase the number of Americans using free options to block calls on cellphones and push companies to offer more call blocking services for landlines and VoIP.
The strike force is also working to draft and implement new standards across the industry that will make caller ID more reliable. One suggestion is to add categories, like political or charity, that way we have a better idea of not only who's calling, but why.
The final goal is to reduce the number of illegal robocalls, where scammers hide behind a seemingly-legitimate number. It tested a "Do Not Originate List" which works the opposite of the "Do Not Call List." It allows the owner of a phone number to block any outgoing calls, but not incoming calls. It stops scammers from making phony calls from a credible number.
The strike force did a study to test the DNO list with the Internal Revenue Service. Multiple IRS numbers were put on the list and could not make outgoing calls. During that time, there was a 90% drop in IRS scam complaints. (The study was done in the same time that police in India arrested more than 70 people allegedly connected to the IRS scam; it is unclear if the two are connected.)
A final report on the DNO study will be released in the first quarter of next year.
"Again, I want to thank you all, for your hard work and the important process you have STARTED..." says FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "And emphasize that aspect."
A website maintained by the FCC went live October 26th, 2016, the same day as the second meeting of the Robocall Strike Force, to provide more details on robocalls and how to report problems. Industry leaders formed the strike force after a call to action by Chairman Wheeler and had its first meeting April 19th, 2016.