Robo-calls and spoofing are on the rise, but the federal government is seeking solutions to these and other communications technology problems – at least that’s what three representatives from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had to say Thursday during a public meeting at Huntingdon City Hall.
Lyle S. Ishida, chief of the FCC’s Consumer Affairs & Outreach Division, along with consumer education and outreach specialists David Savolaine and Deandrea Wilson, spoke to crowd of about 30 local community leaders and concerned citizens as part of what they called the FCC’s Rural Road Trip.
“The biggest complaint we’ve been getting lately is robo-calls,” said Savolaine regarding machines with preprogramed messages randomly calling people’s cell and landline phones. “And yes, you are getting more now than you used to.”
According to Savolaine, Americans are now getting about one billion robo-calls per month.
“And it’s probably going to get worse,” said Savolaine, who added that robo-calls are serving as a medium of mass fraud. “The elderly are particularly vulnerable.”
He also pointed out that spoofing – the act of faking caller ID details, such as local or familiar phone numbers, in order to trick people into revealing personal information – has recently become a big problem nationwide.
Savolaine said the FCC is working on measures that will alert people if the call they are receiving is showing a different number on caller ID than the call’s source.
“At the carrier level, we’re encouraging them to adapt this technology,” said Savolaine.
The FCC is also working to establish a database of recycled phone numbers so that spoofers can be tracked, according to Ishida.
“And we’re going to be voting soon on a proposal to help local carriers deal with spam texts,” said Ishida.
“If there were a magic bullet to all this, we would already have home-fried it,” said Savolaine, who added that it is okay to just let calls go to voicemail if you’re not sure of the source.
Savolaine also said that people should avoid making charity donations over the phone, especially when it involves giving out personal information. He said it is much safer to seek out and research legitimate charities on your own and give through protected channels set in place by those legitimate charities.
Wilson recommended keeping a password on mobile devices, and if a device is stolen, there are means by which a consumer can have use of that device blocked or even have the device located.
In disaster or big emergency situations, Savolaine said it is common for communications networks to get blocked up with people trying to call and check on family and friends.
He recommended putting your cell phone or device in low energy mode, and, if possible, it’s better to text than call, since texting uses less bandwidth than calling.
“But if you call and you don’t get through, don’t keep hitting the redial button,” said Savolaine. “You’ll just be getting in your own way. Just count to ten and call again.”
Regarding the lack of broadband availability in many rural areas, Ishida pointed out that Congress recently finished a $1.5 billion grant aimed at providing broadband to unconnected rural areas.
“Still, that’s not going to fix all of rural America, but it’s a start,” said Ishida.
Huntingdon Mayor Dale Kelley thanked Ishida, Savolaine, and Wilson coming and speaking on these issues.
“There has been some good conversation here,” said Kelley. “And I know we’re going to need this technology going forward.”