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YouMailPS Takes the Stand: Testifying Before the U.S. Senate on Robocall Menace
On October 24, 2023, Mr. Mike Rudolph, the CTO of YouMail, took center stage in the U.S. Senate hearing on Protecting Americans from Robocalls. He shed light on a concern that has plagues millions of Americans: persistent and disruptive robocalls.
In his testimony – and this overview – we cover:
The Damage Robocalls Cause
Robocalls have become more than just a minor annoyance; they've evolved into a major disruption in the lives of countless Americans. The sheer volume of these calls is staggering. Every month, Americans are bombarded with between 1.5 billion to 3 billion scam calls and potentially illegal telemarketing calls.
(YouMail and it’s sister company focused on enterprise, YouMailPS, protect individuals and businesses from harmful calls and texts, including business impersonation fraud. YouMail also publishes the Robocall Index, summarizing nationwide and state robocall data.)
In his Senate testimony, Mr Rudolph discussed these numbers at length, “By our estimates, we have endured over 250 billion — that's a quarter trillion — robocalls since 2019, about a thousand per American adult.”
Furthermore, the financial implications are immense. Americans have been defrauded of an estimated $39 billion in 2022 alone due to phishing attacks stemming from robocalls and robotexts. This isn't just about interrupted dinners or spammy voicemails; it's about real people facing real financial hardships. To put that into context, Mr Rudolph noted that “That's roughly enough money to provide affordable broadband to the current 21 million households enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program for eight years.”
Business impersonation fraud calls and texts have inflicted noticeable harm to the overall business relationship with many major brand’s customers, diluting the brand as well as the direct costs.
And beyond the numbers, there are the emotional costs such as Jennifer DeStefano's heart-wrenching testimony. She recounted a harrowing experience where a scam call impersonated her daughter, leading to emotional distress and financial loss.
Clearly, malicious and spammy robocalls cost our society broadly.
Efforts To Combat Robocalls
The battle against robocalls has been waged on multiple fronts, with both legislative measures and technological advancements playing crucial roles.
The U.S. government recognized the threat posed by unsolicited calls early on. In 1991, they passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TPA), which aimed to restrict telemarketing calls, including the use of prerecorded voice messages and unsolicited faxes. Fast forward to 2019, and the fight took another significant step forward with the enactment of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED). This act bolstered the government's ability to trace, prosecute, and impose stricter penalties on scammers. It also mandated service providers to implement call authentication technologies, ensuring that calls are coming from legitimate sources.
But the question was raised in the hearing if the Department of the Justice should be doing more to enforce those rules, and if the rules could also be used abusively, and where the correct balance should be.
It was noted that at least one telephone provider, required to submit a robocall mitigation plan, had literally submitted a blank piece of paper as their plan. Another filed a photo of their logo as their plan, and yet another submitted a document with the word “NOTHING” in capital letters across the top. (The FCC is launching enforcement proceedings against each.)
While legislation provides a framework for action, technology offers the tools to make a tangible difference. Companies like YouMail and YouMailPS have been pioneers in this domain. Mr. Mike Rudolph, during his testimony, shed light on the cutting-edge solutions employed by YouMailPS. Their system leverages advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to sift through billions of calls, identifying and blocking known scam numbers. By capturing voicemail data, as well as call patterns and behaviors, their advanced AI can identify and preemptively block potential threats, even if they haven't been previously identified.
However, the battle is far from one-sided. Scammers, aware of the advancements on the defensive side, have upped their game. They now utilize sophisticated bots, artificial intelligence, and voice synthesis technologies to impersonate real people. Some even go to the extent of mimicking the voices of loved ones
Collaboration and Traceback Efforts:
Collaboration between industries has also been a beacon of hope in this fight. The Industry Traceback Group (ITG), for instance, has been a game-changer. Under the leadership of Josh Burke, the ITG has dedicated its resources to trace back the origins of unlawful robocalls. By providing this traceback data to government agencies, they've played a pivotal role in enforcement actions. Their collaborative efforts with service providers, tech companies, and regulatory bodies have led to a noticeable reduction in scam robocall volumes.
In essence, the fight against robocalls is a dynamic one, with both sides continuously evolving. But with the combined might of legislative support, technological innovation, and industry collaboration, there's a growing optimism that the tide is turning in favor of consumers.
The Senate's Vision For Future Action
The Senate hearing wasn't just about understanding the problem; it was about charting a path forward. Senators were keenly interested in how companies like YouMailPS could collaborate with regulators and enforcement agencies to amplify their efforts.
Mr. Rudolph emphasized the need for a multi-pronged approach. This includes not only technological solutions but also public awareness campaigns, stricter enforcement of existing regulations, and perhaps even new legislation tailored to the evolving tactics of robocall scammers.
Further support of the Industry Traceback Group (ITG) was also mentioned. As an example of how enforcement works, he noted how the FBI, in collaboration with India’s intelligence agency, took down malicious call centers, and almost immediately reduced the number of government imposter scam calls. He also noted that Vernon gets fewer robocalls due that state’s strict Attorney General.
In conclusion, while the robocall issue is daunting, the combined efforts of companies like YouMail and YouMailPS, legislative bodies, and regulatory agencies provide a glimmer of hope. The Senate hearing was a testament to the collective will to tackle this problem head-on and restore trust in our communication networks.
NOTE: We took a break from our Ultimate Vishing Guide for Business for this breaking event, but stay tuned for Part 4 of our Ultimate Vishing Guide, where we dive into the technological tools available to businesses in their fight against vishing.
For more information on securing your business communication, contact YouMailPS — the industry leaders in detecting and protecting brands from fraudulent voice communications.