Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Op-Ed: Time to Silence Robocallers

May 7, 2019
Press Release
“Spoofing” Hides Caller’s True Location, Tricks People into Picking Up.

WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan wrote an op-ed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on the importance of passing legislation to crack down on illegal robocalls that victimize millions of Americans each year. The TRACED Act (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act) would toughen penalties and require telecom service providers to adopt call authentication technology.

Too many Floridians continue to be harassed by the nationwide onslaught of robocalls. In fact, the Sunshine State was hit with more than 3.8 billion robocalls in 2018 alone. But these are more than just a minor inconvenience — phone scams can defraud innocent Americans out of their life savings.

A staggering 30 to 40 percent of these calls are scams intended to prey on unsuspecting victims — especially vulnerable seniors. Nearly one in five Americans over 65 have been victimized by fraud. This is especially concerning for me as I represent over 220,000 seniors in the nation’s eighth-oldest congressional district.

In our own backyard, area code 813 received over 104 million scam robocalls in 2018 alone. Meanwhile, area code 941 received over 44 million scam robocalls.

To understand what a burgeoning problem this is quickly becoming, consider the fact that the majority of consumer complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission relate to unwanted calls, many of which maliciously hide or disguise the caller’s identity and location. These illegal calls often originate from phone numbers that appear similar to those they’re targeting, a tactic known as “spoofing.”

But robocalls are also targeting a well-respected institution in our community: the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.

Testifying on Capitol Hill last week, a Moffitt official stated that in a recent 90-day period, it received 6,600 external calls spoofed to appear as internal phone numbers. According to Moffitt Chief Information Security Officer Dave Summitt, robocallers have impersonated the Department of Justice and other government agencies to target doctors on the job. In one case, a scammer posed as a federal employee to trick a doctor into giving sensitive information, including his medical license number.

Read the rest here.