June 26, 2020

Senators Hassan, Carper Call for Aggressive Action Against COVID-19 Scammers, Robocallers

Granite Staters Have Experienced Three Times Higher Reported Fraud Losses in 2020 Compared to 2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Tom Carper (D-DE) – who both serve on the Finance Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – are calling on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to aggressively crack down on scammers seeking to take advantage of Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In New Hampshire, the FTC has received more than 1,000 reports of fraud so far this year, resulting in approximately $1.5 million in losses, which is approximately three times higher than reported losses compared to this time last year.

 

“These scams take many forms, including offering expedited access to economic stimulus payments for a fee, impersonating public health officials, and selling phony products that they claim can prevent or cure COVID-19. These offensive scams are a danger to the health and financial security of Americans,” wrote the Senators. “Government and industry should always cooperate to fight illegal robocalls, but it is even more critical at a time when so many Americans are facing economic and health concerns.”

 

The Senators are asking for information from all four agencies about how they are working together to take enforcement actions against COVID-19-related scammers.

 

In their letters to the FTC and FCC, the Senators also discuss warnings that the agencies sent to six gateway providers stating that they needed to act to stop enabling COVID-19-related robocalls, including some that originated from overseas. The Senators are asking for an update on what the agencies are doing to ensure that the providers have taken the necessary actions to block scammers.

 

The Senators are also calling on the DOJ to follow through on collecting fines that the FCC imposes on scammers who violate the law and defraud Americans. The Senators discuss a record-setting $225 million FCC fine against a scam telemarketer misrepresenting health plans. However, the DOJ often fails to follow through on collecting FCC fines.

 

The Senators stated, “This poor track record raises concerns that scammers using robocalls to deceive consumers and exploit anxiety associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency will be able to act without significant fear of reprisal, and never made to disgorge the ill-gotten proceeds of their fraud.”

 

The Senators are also following up on a previous letter they sent to the IRS requesting information on what it is doing to protect Americans from scams related to stimulus payments. “These payments are targeted by scammers and used to trick and defraud Americans, depriving them of their cash assistance and, ultimately, weakening our economic response and recovery,” wrote the Senators.

 

You can read the Senators’ letters here.

 

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