FCC takes action to protect Latino consumers from predatory robocalls.

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a Declaratory Ruling that allows phone carriers to block fraudulent or suspicious calls by default. This new ruling allows voice service providers to “block unwanted calls based on reasonable call analytics, as long as their customers are informed and have the opportunity to opt out of the blocking.”

The Federal Trade Commission's most recent fraud survey reports that 13.4 percent of Hispanics were victims of fraud, compared to 9.0 percent for non-hispanic whites. Their findings assert that Latino consumers are more likely than non-hispanic whites to report “having been victims of the surveyed frauds” with two particular types of fraud disproportionately targeting Latino communities: debt-related fraud and income-related fraud.

Both of these activities use automated, pre recorded messages (robocalls) to target Latino consumers to attempt to collect a fictitious outstanding debt, or by offering loans with interest rates of up to 500%. In both instances, Latino consumers receive relentless robocalls that threaten legal action, or in some cases deportation if consumers do not pay the fraudulent claim or are unable to pay back the interest on the loans.

Although the two largest phone carriers (Verizon and AT&T) both currently provide solutions to block fraud calls, and provide screen alerts for suspected spam calls free of charge. These options coupled with today’s ruling represents a pro-active step towards protecting Latinos consumers by allowing service providers to offer “opt-in to tools that block calls from any number that does not appear on a customer’s contact list or other “white lists,” and give consumers control over what calls they are willing to receive.