New robocall rules let FCC crack down on texts and overseas callers

The FCC now has the authority to punish robocallers originating outside the US, as well as, those perpetrating scams via text.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday on new rules to go after illegal robocallers based overseas. But it's unlikely to be the final death knell for the scourge of robocalls. Instead it's yet another tool in the toolbox to deter the onslaught of calls, the agency said.

The FCC says it received more than 35,000 consumer complaints about caller ID spoofing in the first half of this year alone. And it doesn't look like things are letting up anytime soon.

The new rules won't stop anyone from making these illegal calls. Instead, they're meant to expand the FCC's authority to go after bad actors. Specifically, the new rules are aimed at closing loopholes in the regulations that prevented the agency from going after offenders based outside the US or scammers who text messages to defraud people. 

Watch this: How to stop robocalls

The FCC said that the new regulations are part of a multipronged approach to battle "the noxious intrusion of illegal robocalls, as well as malicious caller ID spoofing." In June, the FCC voted unanimously on a proposal to give mobile phone companies greater power to "aggressively block" unwanted robocalls

Thursday's votes extends the Truth in Caller ID Act to text messages or international calls as intended under the passage of Ray Baum's Act last year. The FCC says this law gives the agency authority to broaden bans on illegal spoofing to text messages, calls originating outside the US and calls using voice over IP. The Truth in Caller ID Act, passed in 2009, already prohibits misleading or inaccurate caller ID "spoofing" with the intent to defraud for domestic callers, the agency said. But until now the FCC''s rules didn't apply to text messages or international calls. Now they do.

"Whether it's neighborhood spoofing, which makes it look like an incoming call is from a local number, or spoofing the number of a company or government agency that consumers know and trust, scammers continue to hide behind spoofed numbers to deceive and defraud American consumers out of money and personal information," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "Today, we rely on new authority provided by Congress in Ray Baum's Act to update our rules to cover these additional forms of spoofing."

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