COLUMBIA, S.C. — Robocalls are on the decline. State officials credit the pandemic.
Now, consumer advocates are working to crack down on these pesky calls even more.
Thanks to a rule in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), large telephone providers are implementing software called STIR/SHAKEN to block illegal robocalls before they reach the consumer.
The deadline for large telephone providers to begin using the technology was June 30, with full implementation by September 30.
"It makes it to where that telephone provider can tell whether or not a call is coming through that wouldn't go through that line normally," said Carri Grube Lybarker, Administrator and Consumer Advocate for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA). "Some people may have noticed on their cell phones that their provider would put 'Spam Call' to identify it if it was potentially setting off some triggers that it would be a robocall."
For the small telephone providers with 100,000 lines or less, their deadline to implement the call blocking software isn't for another two years.
"There's been some data that shows that there are a lot of robocalls that are stemming from small service providers," said Lybarker.
To get the call blocking technology in effect sooner, the FCC is proposing an earlier deadline for these smaller companies.
Instead of June 30, 2023, the agency suggested one year earlier.
In a letter to the FCC, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs welcomed the proposal.
"We see scam artists change their game all the time," said Lybarker. "So once a law goes into effect, they try to figure out how they can circumvent it."
In 2020, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs received 607 reports for robocalls in South Carolina.
That's about half what they saw in 2019, with 1,226 calls.
From January to June 15 of this year, only 421 robocalls were reported.
Lybarker credits the pandemic as a big reason for the decline.
"A lot of countries where we see calls originate from where there are these call centers were shut down because of the pandemic," she explained. "What we're hopeful for is the pandemic aided a little bit in stopping these calls, but now that the large service provider rule is pretty much fully-implemented, we'll see these calls continue to be low...and then hopefully as we get to the small service provider deadline, that'll just be another ticker to just show it level off."
Money lost to robocall scammers, however, grew from 2019 ($432,670) to 2020 ($569,509). From January to June 15 of this year, $412,702 has been lost to robocall scams.
Unfortunately, even with the STIR/SHAKEN software in place, it won't filter out all robocalls.
Here's what you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to a robocall scams, according to the SCDCA:
- If you don't recognize a phone number, don't pick up
- If you answer and don't recognize the person, hang up
- No one will contact you to ask for private information
- No legitimate business will ask you for unusual forms of payment - like gift cards or wire transfers
- If you fall victim to a scam, report it to the Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 844-835-5322 or visit www.consumer.sc.gov and click "Report a Scam"