EDITORIAL: Please, Congress, deliver us from robocall harassment

SHARE EDITORIAL: Please, Congress, deliver us from robocall harassment

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is co-sponsoring legislation to crub robocalls. | Sun-Times file photo

Last month, Chicago ranked fourth among American cities plagued by robocalls.

Do us a favor, Congress, and help us hang up.

The internet has made it easy for spammers to dial thousands of phone calls per second at little cost. Online ads do not exaggerate when they promise: “Send Millions of Robo Calls” or ‎“Unlimited Robocalling Services.”

Last year, spammers placed 48 billion robocalls in the United States, a 46% increase from the year before, and the numbers keep going up. In March, there were 16 robocalls for every man, woman and child in the nation. The Federal Communications Commission says more than half of all calls placed this year will be robocalls.

Why should people so eager to abuse technology be allowed a free hand?

Robocalls are more than an annoyance. They condition our behavior in ways that are not at all good. When we get into the habit of not answering calls from numbers we don’t recognize, we risk missing emergency warnings, such as a health alert for a relative, and other legitimate calls.

In 2014 in Chicago, in another twist on the problem, election judges may have failed to show up for work because spam calls told them — falsely — that first they had to attend an extra three-hour training session or vote a certain way.

On Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., held an outdoor press conference in the Loop to promote his Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act, which would allow class-action lawsuits against robocallers. Durbin also is co-sponsor of a bill that would give federal authorities more power to track, prosecute and fine robocall scammers and require telecommunication companies to weed out “spoofing” calls.

Spoofing calls pop up with what appear to be local numbers — a 312 area code, perhaps — but are in fact coming in from overseas.

We support both laws because, as Durbin said, “enough is enough.”

Durbin has pledged never to use robocalls in a campaign again. How about the rest of you pols?

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul was on hand at the press conference, as well. If the enabling federal legislation is passed, Raoul’s office could file a class-action lawsuit against robo callers on behalf of Illinois residents.

In the meantime, you can slow the deluge of robocalls, if only a bit, by going to donotcall.gov and registering your phone numbers on a Do Not Call list managed by the Federal Trade Commission.

The service is only partially effective — hence the need for the federal legislation — but it beats giving in to the robocall bullies.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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