FCC Gives Phone Companies New Tools To Block Spam Calls

Phone companies will have greater authority to block unwanted calls from reaching customers as regulators adopted new rules to combat automated messages known as robocalls.

Rules adopted Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission represent the latest tools against robocalls, which pester consumers, sometimes multiple times each day, and often push scams. The agency, which regulates the country's phone, broadcast TV and internet services, also hopes that recent big fines will help deter scammers.

Phone companies can already block some calls that trick consumers by showing up on Caller ID with fake numbers. The new rules make clear that they can block additional calls that are likely scams, such as numbers that start with a 911 area code, or one that isn't currently assigned to anyone.

The changes won't stop robocalls completely, though experts say these steps are a good start.

Why Is This Happening?

The federal and state "Do Not Call" lists are supposed to protect people from unwanted calls from telemarketers. But scammers don't care about breaking the law.

Scammers reach people cheaply and easily using autodialers, which spew out a large number of calls automatically. It's estimated that Americans receive tens of millions of robocalls every day. Not all of them are fraudsters, of course. Pharmacies send automated messages about prescriptions being filled. But too often, it's this: you owe the IRS money; it's Microsoft calling to fix your computer; free cruises!

Spam callers have tricky technology that alters what pops up on a phone's caller ID to a local number, or one from an official organization, so you're more likely to pick up.

Help From the Government

The steps the FCC took Thursday lets carriers crack down on these spoofed numbers. If successful, that would make running a scam more difficult and save U.S. consumers millions of dollars, a group of state attorneys general said in...

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