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Report: Robocalls down, robotexts skyrocketing after new federal law

BOSTON — One year after a federal law went into place, the number of robocalls placed to U.S. phones has been cut in half while the amount of robotexts has increased by a factor of 12, a consumer watchdog group said Tuesday.

Robocalls have decreased monthly from around 2.1 billion to 1.1 billion, according to a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund. However, the watchdog said robotexts have increased in the last year from around one billion to 12 billion a month.

Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director with MASSPIRG Education Fund, anticipated skyrocketing robotexts because the FCC’s robocall mitigation database does not apply to text messages.

“It was a pretty big loophole at the time. We anticipated that once you close one door for criminals, they’re going to be looking for cracks in the other doors,” Cummings said.

The FCC launched a Robocall Mitigation Database in April 2021 under the 2019 TRACED Act to stem the number of fraudulent phone calls. 7,514 voice providers are listed in the database, according to U.S. PIRG.

According to U.S. PIRG, 1,932 voice providers are using “industry-standard” robocall mitigation technology known as STIR/SHAKEN, 1,518 companies reported they had partially adopted the technology, and 3,062 companies have not installed STIR/SHAKEN but said they were using their own robocall mitigation system.

“The phone companies’ actions appear to be helping, but clearly, incomplete compliance has not solved our national robocall problem,” U.S. PIRG said in a news release.

The FCC has a section on its website dedicated to advising consumers on how to deal with robocalls and robotexts, including call blocking tools and resources.

Cummings said the good news is while robotexts are on the rise, they haven’t proven to be as effective at fooling people as an actual phone call.

“Research shows that 80 percent of us generally don’t answer calls from an unknown number,” Cummings said. “We rely on our phones, we pay good money for our phones, but it’s become a hassle to use our phones the way we want to -- to answer calls and texts. And the tales of people whose lives are wrecked by scam calls and texts are gut-wrenching. It needs to stop,” Cummings said.

“It’s harder to scam you with a text message, but it can be as dangerous. You want to make sure if you get a text message from someone you don’t know, ignore it,” she said.

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