Florida Rep. Crist calls for jailing of robocallers

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Haley Hinds reports

TAMPA, Fla. - They try to sell you an extended car warranty. They even pose as the IRS. While most robocalls are more annoying than harmful, others have gone so far as to target Alzheimer's patients.    

Will we ever be able to stop them, for good? U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has an idea. He wants to put robocallers in jail.

"I get these crazy calls on it all the time," said Susan Jacobson of Trinity. "I have no way of stopping it."

Jacobson, whose identity had been stolen, believes some of the spam calls are related to that. But she still gets all the same storylines that the rest of us do.


A new report says Americans are on track to receive 88 billion robotexts by the end of the year.

RELATEDAmericans will get 86 billion spam texts by the end of this year, report shows

"I get these calls from car companies looking for me to buy a car. And I keep telling them, take this number off. It's not a good number," Jacobson said. "It's a lot of effort and a lot of time and there should be consequences."

In October, there were an estimated 4.1 billion spam calls in the U.S. according to robocall blocking app YouMail. That's 1,500 calls per second. The Tampa area accounted for more than 46 million of them.

"People deserve to have their privacy. They shouldn't be preyed upon like this," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

Crist is now urging the Department of Justice to prioritize the collection of fines levied against spam callers and consider increasing penalties to include jail time. In a letter written to the DOJ, Crist said, "these bad actors need to feel the full consequences of their crimes."

"I think it will send a very powerful message," Crist told FOX 13. "Don't mess with our people. Don't mess with these senior citizens. The consequences are going to be serious, and you may end up in jail."

Crist's Spam Calls Task Force was created by the TRACED Act in January of 2020. While the DOJ found it cut down on hundreds of millions of robocalls per month, Florida still got an estimated 333 million calls last month alone, according to YouMail.

"The problem is these telemarketers can make millions and millions and millions of calls and very few fines are ever collected," said Alex Quilici who heads up YouMail.

Quilici said it can be hard to pinpoint who and where calls come from. While fines or jail time are deterrents, he said technology is the key to solving this problem.

"Enforcement will help, regulation will help, carriers deploying some of the stuff they've done will help, consumers changing their behavior will help, but bottom line, we need technology to stop these scam calls in the same way your house has a burglar alarm," Quilici said. 

More than 4 billion robocalls a month seems really high. But Quilici said that is still substantially less than the 5.7 billion per month we were getting two years ago.

So, we are seeing progress from recent enforcement efforts from the FCC and other agencies.

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