Robocall Bill Introduced in State Senate

Legislation by Senator Hueso aims to halt caller ID spoofing
February 04, 2019

Sacramento, CA – February 4, 2019 – Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) today introduced a bill to stop illegal robocall scams known as “neighbor spoofing” whereby scammers attempt to trick consumers into answering calls from imposters posing as local callers. SB 208 sets a deadline for telecommunications providers to take the steps necessary to stop these illegal scams, while also ensuring that the CPUC can collaborate with the California Attorney General’s Office to support action against illegal robocallers.

Increasingly, scammers are using telecommunications systems to conduct fraudulent activities, including imposter, debt collection, and identity theft scams. Despite attempts by federal agencies and Congress to prohibit illegal robocalls, the volume of illegal robocalls has increased. 

  • In 2017, Americans received over 30 billion robocalls, and experts estimate that between 30 and 40 percent of these calls were scams.
  • In 2017, fraud cases generated the greatest number of consumer reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  According to these reports, consumers lost over $900 million to these fraud cases, and 70 percent of these cases occurred over the telephone.
  • According to the FTC, California consumers generated the greatest number of consumer reports in 2017, and the state had the third highest rate of identity theft in the nation.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acknowledged that caller ID, or “neighbor”, spoofing is key to making robocall scams work. These spoofed calls circumvent caller ID systems by using dialing systems to pretend to be a local phone number that includes the same area code and first three numbers of a consumer’s personal phone number.  In addition to spoofing phone numbers that do not yet exist, scammers also spoof phone numbers of government agencies, utilities, and private individuals to conduct fraudulent activities.

“Scammers use spoofing as a means of ensuring that consumers will answer their calls,” said Senator Hueso. “While consumers may answer these calls expecting to speak with a friend, family member, or local business, they frequently receive an automated message from a robocall system attempting to defraud them and steal personal information.”

A 2016 task force convened by the FCC suggested implementing a system that would ensure that callers are not spoofing numbers to circumvent caller identification systems. This system is known as the Secure Telephony Identity Revisited and Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (STIR/SHAKEN) protocols. In addition to limiting spoofed calls, the implementation of these protocols can help identify numbers associated with illegal robocalling operations, enabling law enforcement to take action against these robocallers. While the FCC has urged telecommunications providers to adopt a system for preventing illegal robocalls, it has not taken action to set a date by which providers must implement these systems. 

SB 208 would require telecommunications providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN by July 1, 2020, and authorizes the CPUC to collaborate with the Office of the Attorney General and local law enforcement to support action against illegal robocallers.

“Because of inaction on the federal level, this bill is needed to prevent illegal robocalls and ensure that California can effectively enforce consumer protection laws,” said Senator Hueso.