August 14, 2019

Hassan, Colleagues Press FCC to Take Action to Protect Consumers from Cellphone Fraud

In 2018 There Were 680,000 Reported Victims of Cellphone Fraud, a 78% Increase from 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan joined her colleagues in sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the agency to protect and educate consumers on the issue of cellphone fraud and assist victims in understanding their recourse options. In 2018, there were 680,000 reported victims of cellphone fraud, a 78 percent increase from 2017.

“Consumer protection is a core responsibility of the FCC,” the Senators wrote. “While we recognize that consumers can take steps to better protect themselves from this fraud by securing their cellphone account with a pin number through their wireless provider or freezing their credit reports at the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange, consumers cannot protect themselves from dangers they do not know about and these measures are not foolproof. The FCC offers virtually no information to consumers about how to prevent this type of fraud or information about how to seek recourse if they are targeted. Given the seriousness of this issue and its growing prevalence, we urge the FCC to take action to better educate consumers about cellphone fraud and assist victims in understanding their recourse options.”

The letter was led by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and signed by Senator Hassan as well as Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

Senator Hassan is working to strengthen consumer protections and ensure that bad actors cannot take advantage of vulnerable populations. Senator Hassan joined in introducing the PROTECT Students Act to help safeguard students—including servicemembers and veterans—and taxpayers from predatory and anti-student higher education practices. Senator Hassan is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act to address the growing number of robocall scams targeting Granite Staters and Americans. Senator Hassan recently published an op-ed with Senator Jeanne Shaheen highlighting the importance of passing the TRACED Act to ensure consumers are protected from these illegal scams.

The full text of the Senators’ letter can be found here and below:

Dear Chairman Pai:

                                                                 

We write to express our concern regarding the growing number of Americans who fall victim to cellphone account fraud—also known as subscriber fraud or SIM card cloning fraud—and to inquire about what steps the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can take to better protect and educate consumers.

 

Cellphone account fraud—in which scammers either open up a cellphone account in a consumer’s name or illegally clone the consumer’s phone in order to control their messages and data—is growing rapidly and is difficult to detect. In 2018, there were reportedly 680,000 victims, a 78% increase from 2017, many of whom are unaware that they have been targeted by scammers until they are contacted by debt collectors, implicated in a crime, or their bank accounts are drained.

 

Consumer protection is a core responsibility of the FCC. While we recognize that consumers can take steps to better protect themselves from this fraud by securing their cellphone account with a pin number through their wireless provider or freezing their credit reports at the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange, consumers cannot protect themselves from dangers they do not know about and these measures are not foolproof. The FCC offers virtually no information to consumers about how to prevent this type of fraud or information about how to seek recourse if they are targeted.

 

Given the seriousness of this issue and its growing prevalence, we urge the FCC to take action to better educate consumers about cellphone fraud and assist victims in understanding their recourse options. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you respond to the following questions:

 

(1)   What efforts is the FCC currently undertaking to educate consumers about cellphone account fraud and available methods to protect themselves?

(2)   Will the FCC commit to working with cellphone providers to develop measures to ensure that all customer accounts are protected?

(3)   What additional resources and authorities does the FCC need in order to better protect consumers from cellphone account fraud and educate them on how to prevent it?

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.

 

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