State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) is pushing legislation to battle the seemingly non-stop barrage of robo-calls and scam calls that keep cell phones ringing around the clock.
"These calls aren’t part of any upstanding sales methods, they are a form of harassment," said Syverson. "We need to empower state government to effectively combat this growing problem."
Estimates place the number of robo-calls per month at 2.4 billion in 2016, up from 1.5 billion in 2015. The increase is driven largely by internet powered phone systems that have made it cheaper and easier to place the calls from anywhere in the world.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported in October that telemarketing calls were the number one consumer complaint. According to a recent article in Money Magazine, 13,000 complaints about robo-calls are sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) every day.
Many of the robo-calls involve fraudulent schemes, including a recent scam where callers who pretended to be from the IRS claimed that the person answering the phone owed back taxes and then threatened legal action. That one scheme reaped more than $54 million, according to the FCC.
“Because of the low cost of the auto-dialers, callers can afford to make thousands of calls even if only a small percentage of people ever take their bait,” said Syverson. “If the robo-calls weren’t profitable to the scammers, they wouldn’t be doing them.”
Senate Bill 2573, filed by Senator Syverson, would strengthen the Illinois Automated Dialers Act by making it a separate violation to disguise their caller ID information. This is targeted at the act of “spoofing,” where the callers are able to make their number show up as a different number of the recipient’s caller id system. The bill also requires prior written consent before callers can use an auto-dialer to initiate a telemarketing call. Both of these changes would align Illinois law with federal law. The legislation would also make the unlawful practices subject to enforcement by the Attorney General.
“This bill would give the same tools to our Attorney General and state law enforcement that the federal government has,” said Syverson.
Senate Joint Resolution 59, also filed by Syverson, would create the bipartisan Illinois Automated Dialing and Solicitation Task Force. The members of the task force would study penalties for violating the Do Not Call List and penalties for call spoofing, as well as exploring any new technology for preventing automated calls.
The task force would be made up of four members of the General Assembly, one member appointed by the governor, two members from the Illinois Attorney General’s office, one member from the Illinois State Police Department, and five members from the telecommunications industry appointed by the Governor and the four legislative leaders.
“The task force will allow us to find new ways Illinois can combat these unsolicited calls, as well as finding out what new technology and applications consumers can use to prevent them,” said Syverson.
Senator Syverson is also urging Congress to take further action to combat the growing nuisance of robo-calls.
"In most cases we have the ability to trace the calls to the country of origin," said Syverson. “We need Congress to act more swiftly and harshly against them.”
He also recommends that all consumers register their numbers with the Federal Do Not Call Registry at: https://www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx
If you would like to file a complaint with the FTC regarding robo-calls, you can do so here: https://complaints.donotcall.gov/complaint/complaintcheck.aspx