New rules and guidance from the federal government aim to help consumers not fall prey to online scams and money schemes. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued guidance to help consumers. At this point, none are enforceable or law—although the FCC’s text scam rules build on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Federal Government Cracks Down on Scammers
- New guidance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) aims to help consumers crack down on scams and unwanted charges.
- The FTC proposes a rule allowing consumers to cancel unwanted subscriptions with one click.
- The FTC also warns people that scammers are using artificial intelligence to target relatives.
- Finally, the FCC issued new rules to crack down on text messages from suspicious sources that may be spam.
These new guidelines come as many families report a new AI phishing scheme that targets grandparents. Artificially created voices mimic family members and convince grandparents to send money. It’s a scam that’s, unfortunately, sweeping the nation. The FTC put together guidelines to help families prevent these scams.
Many people are also receiving unwanted robotexts—I know I am. I receive a spam text almost daily saying my Amazon account is locked. (I don’t even have an Amazon account.) To help consumers, the FCC is issuing enforcement actions that force phone companies to crack down on these robotexts. The commission had success with a robocall crackdown in the past and hopes to mimic the success.
Finally, the FTC proposed a new rule that would help consumers who are charged for free trials and allows people to cancel subscriptions easily with one click. It can be hard to figure out company cancellation policies; many consumers get charged long after they stop using the service.
Will these new rules help consumers?
They should! And if nothing else, the FTC and FCC are bringing attention to these scams and subscription problems so that more consumers are aware.
However, both federal commissions cannot make laws, so it’s a long process.
Right now, the FTC is only offering guidance and proposals. That means they can tell consumers about the AI-assisted scam calls, but they can’t do anything about it yet. (They would like you to report any scams, though.) Unfortunately, it’s the same case with the FTC’s “Click to Cancel” plan—it’s a proposal, and public comments will soon open for the public.
It’s a bit different for the FCC, though. The commission has adopted rules that build on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and should be enforceable. In fact, according to the press release, the FCC’s rules “require mobile service providers to block certain robot text messages.” The FCC is taking public comment on further proposals to protect mobile phone users from unwanted texts.
While the guidelines are a good step forward, both the FTC and FCC rely on consumer feedback to know if the tools are working and if other things would help protect consumers.