January 23, 2019

Udall, Blumenthal, Colleagues Seek Information About How Trump Shutdown Is Impeding FTC’s Ability To Protect Americans From Robocallers & Scammers

Senators also request guidance on assisting constituents affected by robocalls and scams during the shutdown

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined a group of 13 senators in writing to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek more information about how the Trump government shutdown is impeding the agency’s ability to protect American consumers from robocallers and scammers. Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the government shutdown could cause illegal and scamming robocalls to rise dramatically because the FTC was not funded, thus leaving it unable to administer key consumer protection programs or take enforcement action against bad actors. The senators also requested guidance from the FTC on how to assist constituents affected by robocalls and scams during the shutdown.

“We are deeply concerned by the continued threat of illegal robocallers and other scammers during the ongoing government shutdown and want to work with you to make sure anyone falling victim to them during this unnecessary lapse in funding does not fall through the cracks,” wrote the senators, adding, “The FTC maintains a number of other important online services to prevent scams, assist consumers who have been scammed, and support the Commission’s law enforcement efforts. For example, the FTC maintains the Do Not Call Registry to protect consumers from receiving unwanted commercial telemarketing calls. During this ongoing shutdown, consumers trying to add themselves to the Do Not Call Registry, either online or via telephone, encounter a message that this service is not being offered due to the lapse in funding.”

“These scams are also rapidly evolving,” the senators continued, “recently seeking new prey among furloughed federal workers with a pre-recorded voice threatening ‘the recent government shutdown is affecting your standing with the IRS.’” The 10,800 federal employees who are either furloughed or working without pay in New Mexico could become a target for scammers offering fake loans, jobs, and reimbursement to those going without pay.

In 2018, more than 33,000 New Mexicans logged complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about unwanted robocalls violating Do Not Call regulations. In response to a sharp rise in these complaints, Udall introduced the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2018 that would empower the FCC to prosecute violations of its automated telemarketing call rules by increasing the statute of limitations from one year to three. The process of identifying and going after robocall violators often takes months, making it difficult to move forward with a case under the current one year statute of limitations.

In addition to Udall and Blumenthal, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif).

A PDF of today’s letter to the FTC is available here.