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Sen. Merkley Demands Government Agencies Take Action On Robocalls

<p>U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley</p>

Alan Sylvestre

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley

Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley Wednesday urged the Social Security Administration and Federal Trade Commission to share what actions they’re taking to crack down on fraudulent scam calls — specifically the ones impersonating federal agencies. 

“These unsolicited robocalls are not just an inconvenience to consumers, they are targeted attacks intended to collect personal information for monetary gain,” Merkley wrote in a letter to the two agencies.  

He stressed that these calls make Americans have less trust in government agencies. 

Merkley cited specific calls he received from the Social Security Administration, in which the automated caller threatened to “suspend” his social security number unless he confirmed the number over the phone.  

In 2018, 35,000 Americans reported this specific call. It resulted in $10 million in losses to victims, said Merkley. 

“Unsolicited calls like the one I received endanger the financial security and right to privacy of millions of Americans, as well as the ability of agencies like SSA to effectively discharge their missions,” Merkley said.  

In general, “5.1 billion robocalls were made to Americans in October 2018 alone,” his letter states. 

Along with urging the Social Security Administration and Federal Trade Commission to share what they’re doing to limit robocalls, Merkley also introduced legislation last month that would create a Robocall Division within the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau. 

If passed, the “Regulatory Oversight Barring Obnoxious (ROBO) Calls and Texts Act of 2019” would require the FCC to develop regulations in order to protect American consumers from fraudulent calls.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell is a general assignment and breaking news reporter for OPB. She previously worked as a news reporter and podcast producer for Eugene Weekly in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Along with writing and audio work, Meerah also has experience with photography and videography. She graduated from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication.