Evidently recognizing that we are collectively living through a robocall hell at present, Arkansas lawmakers have advanced a bill that would allow those responsible for robocall spoofing to be charged with a felony.
This is no small issue. A January Hiya report found that 26.3 billion robocalls were made last year to phone numbers in the United States. Robocall spoofing, specifically, describes the spamming tactic of using a fake number or ID information to trick you into picking up the call. It’s annoying as hell, but it can also be dangerous if spammers are able to bait call recipients into sharing personal information about themselves.
Arkansas’ response to this mess, which is being spearheaded by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, cleared the Senate with a unanimous vote on Monday. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday that the bill would bump the penalty for spoofing from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
“The Attorney General is thrilled that the Senate unanimously passed the robocalls bill and looks forward to a similar vote in the House,” Amanda Priest, Communications Director for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, told Gizmodo in a statement. “This legislation was drafted to win the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing, and Attorney General Rutledge is committed to urging phone providers to do all they can do to stop these calls.”
In October, Rutledge was among a group of nearly three dozen attorneys general representing 35 states who called on the Federal Communications Commission to do something about the uniquely soul-sucking experience that is spoofed robocalls.
The bipartisan coalition wrote in a formal letter than they urged the agency to “adopt new rules authorizing voice service providers to block illegally spoofed calls beyond what is currently authorized in the 2017 Call Blocking Order,” which was supposed to help put a lid on this mess. However it has not, as evidenced by Arkansas’ bill.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in November called on carriers to step up call authentication within a year’s time. Last month, Pai said that the FCC would weigh “regulatory intervention” if carriers failed to implement the ID authentication in 2019.
“American consumers are sick and tired of unwanted robocalls, this consumer among them. Caller ID authentication will be a significant step towards ending the scourge of spoofed Robocalls,” he said in a statement at the time. “It’s time for carriers to implement robust caller ID authentication.”
Surely if there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the damn robocalls must be stopped.