Hello, Attention: This Is Our Show On Robocalls. Don't Hang Up!

Download Audio
(John Raoux, File/AP)
(John Raoux, File/AP)

Americans are receiving record numbers of robocalls. Are there legislative or technological fixes?


Sarah Krouse, reporter for the Wall Street Journal covering the telecommunications industry. (@bysarahkrouse)

David Frankel, communications consultant and founder of the conference call company ZipDX.

Eric Troutman, defense attorney who specializes in Telephone Consumer Protection Act litigation and compliance.

From The Reading List

Wall Street Journal: "Why Robocallers and Scammers Love Gift Cards" — "Holly Kay bought eight $1,000 Macy’s gift cards at a California mall because a scammer told her to on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Forty minutes later, she bought $13,000 more in gift cards at that store.

"The ease with which Ms. Kay was able to complete those purchases underscores the growing popularity of gift cards among scammers seeking quick, hard-to-trace ways to take money from their victims.

"Buying multiple gift cards is often easier than initiating a wire transfer, because the cards are easily purchased and the numbers can be sent instantly by phone or text message to a fraudster who might otherwise have to wait for a large bank transaction to clear, law-enforcement officials say.

"The gift cards Ms. Kay, 68 years old, purchased at Macy’s Inc. were among nearly 120 that she bought from several retailers in one week, as part of a scam in which a fraudster told her she was helping catch a hacker who had compromised her home computer."

The National Law Review: "Fact Checking John Oliver’s Robocall Bit: It was Hilarious– but was it Accurate?" — "Over the weekend John Oliver took on the robocall epidemic in this country with a fantastic–but potentially highly misleading– piece of advocacy on his HBO Show Last Week Tonight.

"The bit was hilarious–although the language was certainly blush-inducing for those of us that don’t frequently watch late night television– and Oliver is obviously immensely talented. The bit ended with a giant foam finger pushing a giant red button to launch robocalls at the FCC encouraging it to keep Wheeler-era TCPA regulations in place. It was comedy gold and actually quite a convincing piece of advocacy. But were his various statements regarding robocalls and the federal regulations governing automated calls accurate? We here at decided to dive into the record and find out.

"As you’ll see below, we’re pretty critical of a number of assertions made in the bit. We don’t mean to suggest that Oliver was intentionally misleading people–his object is to entertain after all– but given how serious the issue of TCPA reform is, reigning in potential misinformation–no matter how benign– is pretty important stuff. So–ready to dive in? here we go."

The Hill: "New study finds surge in robocalls as Congress weighs legislation" — "Americans received more than twice as many robocalls this year as they did in 2018, according to a new study released this week.

"Hiya, a company that develops tools to detect caller identity and protect consumers from scams, estimates in its new report that 54.6 billion robocalls were placed from January to November 2019, up 108 percent from the previous year.

"That marks a significant acceleration in frequency. Robocalls increased 46 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to Hiya COO Kush Parikh.

"'The reason that it’s increasing so rapidly is that this is a profitable industry for the scamsters and the fraudsters,' Parikh told The Hill in a phone interview. “It’s a $9 billion industry and growing.' "

This program aired on December 24, 2019.


Headshot of Meghna Chakrabarti

Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


Headshot of Anna Bauman

Anna Bauman Producer/Director, On Point
Anna Bauman is a producer and director at On Point.



More from On Point

Listen Live