On Monday, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai proposed a new rule that would make malicious text message spoofing and overseas robocalls illegal, something that the agency has yet to fully address in its attempts to fight robocalls.
The measure formally implements rules approved by Congress last year that authorize the FCC to go after text message fraudsters and international robocallers. If approved, calls and texts that use spoofing to imitate a different phone number would be unlawful and would allow the FCC to bring enforcement actions against bad actors outside of the country who are looking to defraud or scam people in the US.
“Scammers often robocall us from overseas, and when they do, they typically spoof their numbers to try and trick consumers,” Pai said in a statement. “Call center fraudsters often pretend to be calling from trusted organizations and use pressure tactics to steal from Americans. We must attack this problem with every tool we have.”
As outrage over the onslaught of illegal and annoying robocalls has grown over the past year, the Pai FCC has made some moves to empower carriers to do more to the thwart the threat. In May, the FCC approved a measure that made it clear carriers were able to block robocalls by default.
“By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed,” Pai said at the time, “the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them.”
Pai has also pressured carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to quickly deploy two new infrastructure protocols called SHAKEN/STIR into their networks. Generally, the protocols trigger a message on a phone’s Caller ID that only shows up when the call is being placed from an authentic source. Once these protocols are widely adopted, consumers will be able to easily determine if a call is coming from a scammer.
“With these new rules, we’ll close the loopholes that hamstring law enforcement when they try to pursue international scammers and scammers using text messaging,” Pai said today.
The commission will vote on the new proposal at its August 1st meeting.