Rep. Harley Rouda wants Americans to be protected against increasingly common COVID-19 phone scams by strengthening the government’s ability to fight con artists.
In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, Rouda urged federal officials to take action against a growing number of scams targeting Americans.
The letter notes that nearly a million suspicious calls have already been made to Americans about coronavirus. The FCC has received numerous complaints about calls pushing misinformation on national quarantine orders or martial law, offering free test kits, targeting people with preexisting conditions, and messages designed to sound like they are from the World Health Organization or other charities asking for money. There have also been reports of scams pushing nonexistent and unfounded treatments and cures for COVID-19.
“Millions of Americans, particularly senior citizens, are being targeted by fraudulent COVID-19 scams,” Rouda said in a statement. “The bipartisan TRACED Act, which seeks to end robocalls, includes enforcement mechanisms to protect Americans. While the FCC and DOJ have taken steps to make citizens aware of COVID-19 scams, they must immediately utilize their enforcement powers to protect the safety, security, health, and welfare of the Americans they serve.”
The legislation would give agencies greater authority to impose fines and prosecute offenders who make scam calls. It also requires phone companies to set-up screening software to weed out potential spam calls, and prevents them from charging consumers to do that.
In the letter, Rouda and other members of Congress noted that efforts to stop scam calls are all about protecting America’s vulnerable populations.
“We are particularly concerned about the threat that these fraudulent calls pose to vulnerable populations, specifically elderly Americans and low-income communities. People over the age of 65 make up an eighth of the U.S population, but they represent as many as a third of all scam victims due to increased memory loss associated with advanced age, loneliness and difficulty spotting warning signs associated with fraudulent schemes,” the representatives wrote in the letter.
Rouda encouraged officials at both departments to take all the necessary steps to combat scam calls and deter them from being made in the first place.