Editor’s note: Today’s editorial originally appeared in The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
To be honest, we aren’t really interested in purchasing a time share. And we are not a rewards member of that big hotel chain. And we are not worried about the warranty expiring on our 2003 Toyota Corolla, regardless of what the automated voice on the other end of the line is saying.
Yet despite our disinterest in these matters of supposed urgency, we keep receiving phone calls about them. We are guessing you do, too, considering that an estimated 47.8 billion robocalls were placed nationwide last year — an increase of more than 50 percent over 2017.
But that was last year. This year, according YouMail, a robocall-blocking application, there were 4.7 billion such calls placed in the United States in May — slightly fewer than the record 5.2 billion made in March. And call-management company First Orion says automated calls account for nearly half the mobile calls in the country.
“Americans deserve to be free of the daily danger and harassment of robocalls,” Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, said. “It’s time we end the robocall epidemic and restore trust back into our phone system.”
Agreed. So it is worth noting that Walden has teamed with Democrat Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey in introducing legislation to curb the scourge of robocalls. H.R. 946, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, would require phone carriers to implement call authentication technology so consumers can trust the number that shows up on their caller ID. It also would allow carriers to offer free call-blocking services and would strengthen penalties for callers who break the law.
If some of this, um, rings a bell, we offer a reminder that Congress approved the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003 and the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act in 2007. Since then, scammers and legitimate companies alike have developed workarounds that make it look as though calls are coming from local numbers, spoofing the caller ID technology.
The odds are that the call warning about your expiring car warranty isn’t really coming from the 360 area code; the perpetrators just want you to think it is. That is because, according to an AARP survey, 60 percent of Washington adults say they will answer a call from a local number, even if it is unfamiliar.
While most unwanted phone calls are merely an annoyance, some are nefarious. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently teamed with AARP for an information session regarding how scammers try to coerce money or personal information from unsuspecting targets by warning about, say, unpaid tax bills.
“They want to put you in that state of fear to make you do something in hindsight that you know that you shouldn’t have done,” Ferguson said. “That’s why we really want to educate folks. Slow down the process, talk to a trusted friend, do your research before you turn over your hard-earned money.”
The glut of robocalls also is proving dangerous in another way. The Washington Post reports: “They threaten to overwhelm the country’s most critical communications lines, including at hospitals, which recently have reported a significant uptick in robocalls targeting administrators, doctors and patients.”
Given all of this, we trust that the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will attract bipartisan support in Congress. The Senate last month passed anti-robocall legislation similar to the House bill, and there seems to be widespread public interest in reducing the number of unsolicited phone calls.
Except, of course, for those interested in purchasing a time share.