Rep. McDermed Files Resolution to Push Telephone Providers to Protect Consumers from Robocalls and Scams

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) wants to put the full weight of the Illinois House behind a national effort to encourage telephone providers to implement new protocols that will crack down on illegal robocalls and filter out spoofed calls.    

“Residents are fed up with these incessant calls,” Rep. McDermed said. “Taking action and enforcing current law however, is complicated by technology and loopholes.” Federally, robocalls from anyone other than politicians or charities are illegal. However, that hasn’t stopped them. 30 billion robocalls were made in 2017, a number that is growing from year-to-year because of new technology like autodialers that companies can use to send out thousands of phone calls every minute for an incredibly low cost. Having a phone number registered on the national Do Not Call Registry does little to discourage or stop criminal phone scams and other annoying calls as the companies that use this technology don’t bother to screen for numbers on the registry.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) robocalls and scams are the number one consumer complaint and they received 4.5 million complaints in 2018. In 2017 an estimated 22.1 million Americans lost $9.5 billion dollars from phone scams. Scam callers are becoming more sophisticated, using spoofing technology to mimic local area codes in order to fool the call recipient. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been working on new phone verification methods including the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN). According to software company TransNexus, STIR and SHAKEN use public key cryptography and trusted authorities to validate a phone number. This is similar to how Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is used to establish secure web connections. If implemented, these protocols are expected to produce a significant drop in robocalls and have been likened to the efforts that cracked down on email spam.

STIR & SHAKEN Workflow

“Illinois by itself doesn’t have the authority to compel phone providers to adopt this system and even if we could, technology changes so fast that mandating a certain procedure or technology could be counterproductive.” Rep. McDermed said. “Right now implementing caller authentication services is voluntary and until the FCC requires it of telephone providers we need to push them to step up and act. It will be a win for everyone, including grandma anticipating a call from her grandson and instead, falling victim to a scam.” Last year 35 State Attorneys, including Illinois’ Lisa Madigan, signed a letter to the FCC urging them to adopt and promote STIR and SHAKEN. House Resolution 67 seeks to put more weight behind this effort by encouraging the same of the FCC and telephone providers.

According to the FCC, carriers are not expected to pass any additional costs of implementing such services directly on to consumers. Upon adoption, the resolution would be sent to the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the respective CEOs of the top five telecommunication companies in Illinois.