I'm not sure what happened to the National No-Call Registry, but I must assume it went up in flames because I for one get robocalls all the time, despite having repeatedly registered my number over the years. (It's still around, it just doesn't work.) The robots interrupt constantly, their methods—for example, deploying familiar area codes, perhaps to make you think someone you love has suffered an accident and that's a hospital administrator calling you—having grown at once sneakier and bolder in recent years. It's enough to make a person want to tear out all her hair, and because I assume you feel the same way, I'm pleased to report that the New York legislature might finally do something about the ceaseless badgering.
On Tuesday, the Robocall Prevention Act was voted to advance out of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications committee. The bill, now headed for a full vote, aims "to stop the scourge of robocalls in New York" by blocking people and companies from sending robocalls (and robotexts) to state residents who have not consented to receiving these missives. Noncompliant entities could face a $2,000 fine for every illegal call (up to $20,000 for offending calls placed "within a continuous 72-hour period"), and phone companies would have to make robocall-blocking technology freely available to their customers. The bill also sets up a framework for harassed phone owners to sue robocallers for damages.
According to NBC 4 New York, almost 48 million robocalls went out across the country last year, and aside from being annoying, they are actively harmful: the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that seniors lose nearly $3 billion to fraudulent calls each year, including robocalls intended to skim personal details. Representative Yuh-Line Niou, who's sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, reportedly added that people living in her Manhattan district have been receiving robocalls in Chinese, warning them of baseless visa issues in an effort to steal sensitive information.
"If New Yorkers had a movie about our lives, a robocall would be the soundtrack to our lives," Senator Brad Holyman, a sponsor of the legislation, told the NY Post, adding that this was an oft-maligned issue in his Manhattan district. "This is the top complaint I get from constituents next to complaints about the subway."
Now, to be clear, it is often illegal for telemarketers to bombard people on the No Call Registry, and the Federal Trade Commission will sue violators. However, the automated, Internet-based nature of the robocall makes them difficult to police, which is why the people attached to the approximately 230 million numbers on the list have found it so hard to hide from the robots. A handful of other states have attempted similar measures to banish robocalls, and while this sprawling scam may be too big to banish entirely, I am not about to sneeze on any efforts toward that goal. Block all robocalls from now until forever, thank you and goodnight.