Americans were inundated with 48 billion robocalls last year.
Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement
Click HERE to read Senator Casey’s opening statement
Washington, D.C.—Angela Stancik first realized her grandmother was being victimized by scammers in the last conversation she ever had with her. In a forceful and desperate tone, 82-year-old Marjorie Jones told her granddaughter that she needed $6,000 wired to her as soon as possible.
This phone call set off many red flags in Ms. Stancik’s family. A week later, while they were still trying to figure out what was happening, her grandmother tragically committed suicide.
“It pains me to talk about my grandmother’s horrific death because she chose to take her own life,” Ms. Stancik said. “[T]hese fraudsters preyed on her and on her good heart. Her golden years and the last chapter of her life was taken from her. It is clear to us that the circumstances that led to her death were caused by these criminals. She was robbed in every sense.”
After Ms. Jones’ death, her family learned that criminals had been repeatedly calling her to demand money. They stole her entire lifesavings and forced her to take out a reverse mortgage and cash out her life insurance. She was left with $69 in her bank account when she took her own life.
Ms. Stancik shared her story at a hearing held today by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aging Committee. The hearing, titled, “Combatting Robocall Fraud: Using Telecom Advances and Law Enforcement to Stop Scammers and Protect Seniors,” focused on the ways that scammers use robocalls and caller-ID “spoofing,” which allows scammers to mask their identity, to steal money from seniors. The hearing also explored the ways that the telecommunications industry and the federal government are fighting back against illegal robocallers and the additional steps needed to stop the scourge of calls.
“Mainers received an astonishing 93 million robocalls last year,” said Chairman Collins. “Putting an end to the scourge of illegal robocalls will take an aware public, aggressive action by regulators and law enforcement agencies, and a coordinated effort at every level of our telecommunications industry. As we heard today, these scams can shatter the lives of seniors and their families and impose a cost that cannot be measured in money alone.”
“Robocalls calls are more than a nuisance, they turn a conversation into a heist by threatening our aging loved ones and stealing their hard-earned savings,” said Senator Casey, Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging. “Con artists are feeling more emboldened than ever, spoofing law enforcement phone numbers and threatening seniors and others with arrest in order to scare them into immediately handing over funds. We must make it harder for thieves to use robocall and spoofing technology in the first place, but also get everyone in the community involved in knowing how to spot a scam and stop money from ever exchanging hands.”
The number of robocalls Americans have received has exploded in recent years, rising to 48 billion in 2018. By one estimate, nearly half of all mobile calls will be spam by the end of 2019. Last year, robocalls were the second-most reported complaint to the Senate Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470).
The Committee also heard from Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders, Jr, the Sheriff of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The Sheriff discussed his office’s experience as the victim of spoofing as a part of the jury duty scam and also described his work to help prevent local residents from becoming scam victims.
David Frankel, a telecommunications consultant, shared his perspective on illegal robocalls, arguing that they must be stopped closer to the source. Robocallers based overseas pay “originating providers” to put their calls on the U.S. telecom network. These originating providers then pass the robocalls on to terminating providers, which are the telecommunication companies that provide phone services to U.S. consumers. Mr. Frankel helped pioneer the industry’s “Traceback” effort, which assists law enforcement in tracking down the source of calls and identifying the limited number of originating providers that are facilitating billions of bogus calls.
The Committee also heard from Delaney De Leon-Colon, the Postal Inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's Criminal Investigations Unit also testified before the Committee. Ms. De Leon-Colon described USIPS’ involvement in investigations of scams that use robocalls and spoofing to trick victims and USPIS’ education campaigns that are designed to help prevent seniors and others from being scammed.
Click HERE to read their testimonies.