Sick of robocalls? New legislation in New York aims to crack down on them

New York State

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — We’re all sick of robocalls. Getting a call from an unknown number with someone on the other line asking for your personal information is never fun, but now a new package of legislation in New York is looking to help.

The legislation was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday and is expected to help combat robocalls throughout New York. State Senator Jeremey Cooney sponsored the legislation and said the main goal is keeping the public safe and protecting New Yorkers from being taken advantage of. 

“They’re taking advantage of our most vulnerable population, such as our senior citizens. And we have seen that seniors have lost not only large dollar amounts because these scammers have pulled on their heartstrings one way or another, but they’re also facing a lot of shame and they feel victimized,” Senator Cooney said. 

The first part of the bill requires telecommunication companies in New York to automatically block robocalls from certain numbers. This includes calls that are likely illegitimate because they’re coming from numbers that can’t make outgoing calls. 

“This piece of legislation complements what we’ve seen on the federal side. You know that there’s the Do Not Call list that the FEC operates. What makes our legislation a little bit different is that it’s automatic. So we worked, when drafting the legislation, with the large phone carriers like Verizon or At&T, so that they were part of the process. And so automatically, they have the technology which can check on these calls. So when one phone number is used over and over and over again to call other cell phone numbers, it puts a red flag up,” Cooney said. 

The second bill requires voice service providers to implement a new type of call authentication system, which uses cryptography to validate the number that’s making the call. This system would make it easier to trace calls back to the source, allowing further action to be taken. 

Cooney said New Yorkers don’t have to do anything to have these scam calls blocked, and the legislation took effect immediately. 

“We as New Yorkers, we don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to sign up on a list, we don’t have to tell our companies that we don’t want to be part of the robocall list, you’re protected starting day one,” he said. 

However, if residents don’t want these calls blocked, they can contact their phone carriers to request that these calls still come through. 

Cooney said the legislation became even more important during the pandemic, when scammers were targeting people for a number of different reasons regarding their health. 

“Earlier in the pandemic, we saw scams trying to get individuals to sign up for vaccine access and providing preferred access lines and certifications. Later on in the pandemic, we saw scammers trying to take advantage of people by saying that they were representing others who are trying to get access to the vaccine, or they had new information about the pandemic in their community,” Cooney said. “Recently, we’ve seen a number of disability benefit calls come through where people are posing to be health insurance companies trying to help people get benefits when they’re really just trying to get access to personal information.”

The senator added that he realized he wanted to be part of the solution when the scam calls weren’t just impacting one or two people, but nearly everyone, including himself. 

“This is pervasive, this is everywhere. Every single person who has a cell phone in the state of New York is getting one or two or more of these calls each week. And we have to do something as government leaders to step up and stop this from happening,” Cooney said. “Here in Rochester, we have a growing aging population. I’m very concerned about people who are taken advantage of especially when they’re victimized. In the name of public health. It’s wrong It’s unacceptable. And we have to do everything possible to protect our most vulnerable populations.”

While the legislation is already in effect, Cooney said it’s still important people are aware of the phone calls they receive, especially with the upcoming holiday season.  

“We want to put an end to that we can’t prevent everything from getting to your cell phone, you still have to use some common sense, and you still have to ask good questions before you give out any information over the phone. But we want to make sure that we decrease the amount of the robocalls and that as the technology changes with our cell phones, that we’re staying up to date here in the state of New York,” Cooney said. 

To read more about the legislation, click here. 

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