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Consumers Can Report & Help Prevent Unsolicited Robocalls

Fraud & Identity Featured Article

Consumers Can Report & Help Prevent Unsolicited Robocalls

May 30, 2017
By Laura Stotler TMCnet Contributing Editor

Robocalls, otherwise known as autodialer calls, are an annoyance and a nuisance for most consumers. Defined as calls or text messages made using an autodialer or pre-recorded messaging system, robocalls are technically illegal thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which was introduced to protect consumers from unwanted solicitation. And yet, some 26 years after the TCPA was introduced, robocalls are as prevalent as ever.

Many companies hedge their bets on not getting caught and on consumer ignorance of the legality of these types of calls, since a percentage of them accomplish their intended purpose. In fact, the FCC (News - Alert) reported that U.S. residents were subject to more than 29 billion robocalls last year. The problem has become so pervasive that a “robocall strike force” comprised of telecom and technology companies was formed last year to help combat illegal robocalls and fraud. The group is developing a standard authentication technology to verify where calls are coming from so authorities can track down the offending parties.

Consumers don’t have to wait for the industry to combat the frustrating problem of robocalls, however, and can report TCPA violations and potentially receive monetary compensation for their trouble. Any consumer who has not given explicit permission to a company or companies should not be receiving robocalls and can report the violation to the FCC. And according to Top Class Actions, consumers are entitled to anywhere from $500 to $1,500 depending on whether the violation was made knowingly or unknowingly.

Consumers that band together to file a TCPA class action lawsuit can force violating companies to pay large fines and settlement amounts, depending on the type and number of offenses. That was the case for shoe company Steve Madden, which was forced to pay out $10 million to settle a national class action lawsuit in 2013. The company was accused of sending unsolicited text messages to more than 200,000 consumer mobile phones through a third-party company.

Technology will play a major role in combatting robocalls, and industry players like iconectiv (News - Alert) are working on Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs (SHAKEN), a standard for end-to-end authentication and verification of telephone identity and information that would help service providers flesh out robocalls and scam calls. In the meantime, consumers have several forms of recourse to report unsolicited calls and texts that violate the TCPA. The FCC has information about preventing and reporting robocalls on its web site.

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