Press Releases

Jaime Herrera Beutler Urges Federal Agencies to Crack Down on Coronavirus-Related Scams

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Washington, April 3, 2020 | comments
This week, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler joined a bipartisan group of members who formally pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help protect Americans from coronavirus related scams.
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This week, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler joined a bipartisan group of members who formally pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help protect Americans from coronavirus related scams.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Herrera Beutler urged quick and decisive action to help protect the safety, security, and welfare of individuals across the country who have been targeted by coronavirus scams. Over the past couple of weeks, numerous scam robocalls have been reported, including warnings of national quarantine orders or martial law; offers of free test kits; targeting of individuals with preexisting conditions; and requests for personal information to confirm a check from the government. In the letter, Herrera Beutler and the lawmakers highlight the impact these scams have on vulnerable communities who are specifically targeted by fraudsters.

“We are particularly concerned about the threat that these fraudulent calls pose to vulnerable populations, specifically elderly Americans and low-income communities,” the lawmakers said.  “People over the age of 65 make up an eighth of the U.S. population, but they represent as many as a third of all scam victims due to increased memory loss associated with advanced age, loneliness, and difficulty spotting warning signs associated with fraudulent schemes. Older Americans represent a nexus of our concerns due to both their increased vulnerability to these scams and higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.”

Last year, Herrera Beutler supported the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrent (TRACED) Act, which was approved by Congress and later signed into law. The TRACED Act includes provisions to provide the FCC and DOJ with enhanced authority and actions to protect the public from scam robocalls.

The full text of the letter follows and is available here.

Dear Chairman Pai and Attorney General Barr:

We write today to emphasize the serious threat that fraudulent and scam robocalls pose to the safety and security of Americans across the country who are already experiencing significant disruptions to their everyday lives, heightened economic stresses, and concerns related to their health and wellbeing as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Further, we urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to take all necessary actions to safeguard and protect Americans from these scams.

Every day for the past couple of weeks, fraudsters have placed an estimated 1 million or more suspected suspicious calls about the coronavirus to Americans’ smartphones, according to YouMail. It has been reported that the FCC has received numerous reports of coronavirus-related robocall scams including: warnings of national quarantine orders or martial law; offers of free test kits, targeting individuals with preexisting conditions; messages purporting to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) or charities asking for money; HVAC cleaning or upgrades to protect against the virus; promotions of various bogus products, treatments, and cures; and asking for information to confirm a check from the government.

We are particularly concerned about the threat that these fraudulent calls pose to vulnerable populations, specifically elderly Americans and low-income communities. People over the age of 65 make up an eighth of the U.S. population, but they represent as many as a third of all scam victims due to increased memory loss associated with advanced age, loneliness, and difficulty spotting warning signs associated with fraudulent schemes.3 Older Americans represent a nexus of our concerns due to both their increased vulnerability to these scams and higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. 

While we appreciate the FCC’s recent efforts to keep consumers informed about scam attempts related to the COVID-19 pandemic through the Agency’s “COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips” online resource page, the bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse

Criminal Enforcement and Deterrent (TRACED) Act that was signed into law last year includes provisions to provide both the FCC and DOJ with enhanced authority and direction to take critical steps to protect the public by addressing a wide range of robocall scams. 

We are concerned about widespread attempts to sell suspicious products and spread misinformation and fear. Your agencies must take all necessary actions to combat these nefarious scams and protect the safety, security, health, and welfare of all Americans. 

Please let us know what concrete steps the FCC and DOJ will be taking to address these coronavirus-related robocalls by April 14, 2020.

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