Senators urge FCC, DOJ to combat coronavirus robocalls

Senators urge FCC, DOJ to combat coronavirus robocalls
© Greg Nash

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Critics blast EPA move as 'license to pollute' during pandemic | Trump expected to roll back Obama mileage standards| Group plans to sue over rollback of water law Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Chinese official's virus disinformation doesn't violate rules | Hackers target WHO | Senators urge agencies to stop coronavirus robocalls Senators urge FCC, DOJ to combat coronavirus robocalls MORE (D-Mass.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.D.) sent letters to key federal agencies Monday urging them to do more to combat coronavirus-related robocalls.

The lawmakers referenced a Washington Post report detailing how scammers have taken advantage of the epidemic to pitch fake COVID-19 testing kits or sell nonexistent medical equipment.

“We are particularly concerned by the threat these calls pose to elderly Americans. They are especially vulnerable to robocall scams, and they are among those at the greatest risk from coronavirus,” Markey and Thune wrote in letters to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBrooklyn man accused of lying about hoarding medical supplies, coughing at officers Juan Williams: Mueller, one year on States should plan now for November voting options MORE

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“Robocalls that spread misinformation about cures, peddle ineffective equipment, and offer bogus medical advice have the potential to inflict significant harm on individuals and communities across the country.”

Coronavirus scams are an illustrative example of how robocallers can use crises to target vulnerable populations.

Congress took action on the threat late last year, passing the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, named after Thune and the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).

The bill, signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE on New Years Eve, requires phone companies to block robocalls without charging customers any extra money.

It also expands the authority of the FCC and Department of Justice to find and fine scammers.

However, many of those efforts are still being implemented.

According to YouMail, which offers a robocall blocking service, there were well over 4 million automated calls to American smartphones in February.