The use of caller ID spoofing, a tactic that hides a caller’s true identity and is often used to target older adults in scams, should result in higher penalties for callers, the head of the Senate Special Committee on Aging said Wednesday.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would introduce a bill designed to combat caller-ID spoofing by increasing the maximum fine from $1 million to $2 million for callers who falsify information.
The tactic, facilitated by robocalling and Voice Over-Internet Protocol technology, is frequently used by fraudsters attempting to cast a wide net for potential targets. Older adults are widely recognized as being particularly susceptible to scammers.
“Too many seniors continue to lose their hard-earned money and often, their retirement savings to con artists,” Collins said.
Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun said he was surprised law enforcement had not taken action against the telecommunications and VOIP industries. He says they should have known of the wide-spread fraud and abuse, likening them to manufacturers of opioids.
“Like I’ve admonished the health care industry when it comes to fixing itself in general, the telecommunications industry and VOIP ought to be concerned. And it’s surprising to me that they haven’t been taken to task already,” Braun said. “That’s disappointing.”
Angela Stancik, of Houston, told the committee her grandmother, Marjorie Jones, was the victim of a telephone scam that left her destitute.
“My grandmother was targeted and pursued nonstop by a ring of fraudsters,” Stancik said.
Stancik explained her grandmother had been told she won a large cash prize but needed to pay taxes and fees to collect it.
The scammers convinced her to wire money, her life savings, to them.
Eventually she had only $69 left in her bank account, Stancik said.
Jones eventually committed suicide.
In a report issued by the Federal Communications Commission in February, the agency estimated there were nearly 48 million robocalls made to U.S. citizens in 2018.
While it is not known what percentage of those calls were fraudulently made, estimates by First Orion, a company that develops technology designed to increase transparency in communication, suggests around 44% of robocalls will be spoofed in 2019.