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Robocalls and the Scam Economy
A $5.8 billion industry
The Washington Post reports on the harms to consumers of the “scam economy,” largely based in the world of robocalls and email scams.
We mostly think about scam calls and texts in terms of their financial costs to the people who fall for them. Consumers reported $5.8 billion in fraud to the Federal Trade Commission last year, a 70 percent increase from 2020. Falling for or engaging with one scam can lead to an increase in attempts. According to RoboKiller, an app for screening robocalls on phones, an average smartphone owner in the United States will get an estimated 42 spam texts and 28 spam calls a month. Once a number or email address spreads into more spammer databases, it can be bought and sold by the companies involved in the booming scam industry.
Robocalls take a financial and emotional toll on consumers. Although in most cases, such calls are illegal, the techniques used to evade regulation are ever evolving. Plus, most consumers lack the time, energy, or resources to undergo the type of legal action necessary to actually stop the calls or secure a fine.
Consumer advocates continue to pressure federal regulators to take action against these nefarious actors.
The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has made specific recommendations that they say would help protect consumers and hold bad actors accountable. These include:
Make all substantiated tracebacks public. Publication of the records of tracebacks will mean that the FCC, state attorneys general, and private litigants will all be able to identify those providers who facilitate the entry of these calls into the U.S. telecommunications system, as well as those who chose to ignore the red flags indicating that the calls were illegal and will be able to proceed against them.
Hold all providers responsible for illegal calls. The FCC should announce that when a provider continues to transmit illegal calls after notice from any source that the traffic is illegal, the provider will be automatically delisted from the Robocall Mitigation Database–a step that results in barring it from transmitting calls into the U.S. telecommunications network.
Treat ongoing provider failure to implement an effective robocall mitigation program, non-compliance with traceback requests, or continuing to transmit illegal calls from gateway providers as complicity with bad actor callers. The FCC must unequivocally place the burden on the providers to avoid facilitating illegal calls.
While these recommendations could improve the landscape for consumers, it’s not clear (yet) whether a serious effort will be made to follow this path.
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The Credit Repair Game
Since it can be difficult to fix errors on your credit report, it can be tempting to use a so-called credit repair firm. Unfortunately, these firms are more often hype than help.
The attorneys at Finn Law Group often some key information on credit repair and how to avoid scams.
Among other things, they note:
There are many credit repair companies that claim they can help you improve your credit score. However, most of these companies use illegal methods to boost your score. They might tell you to create a new credit identity or they might instruct you to dispute accurate information on your credit report, even if you know it’s accurate. These methods will not only hurt your credit score, but they can also result in legal action.
The bottom line here: Most companies offering credit repair are offering false hope in order to make a quick buck.
Most credit errors can be identified and corrected by a consumer — for free.
Here’s more on that:
First, credit reporting agencies will investigate the credit dispute and determine whether or not the information on the credit report is accurate with the credit subscriber. If the credit agency finds that the information is inaccurate, they are supposed to correct it and notify you of the correction. However, if the credit agency finds that the information is accurate, they will not make any changes to your credit unless you provide them with additional documentation to prove that the credit reporting error is indeed an error.
You can check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com — for free!
If you’ve filed a complaint with a credit reporting agency and you’re not getting any result, you can follow-up with a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency is responsible for regulating the consumer finance marketplace.
No matter what, you simply don’t need those credit monitoring services pitched to you by the three major credit bureaus.