Washington lawmakers to target robocalls, spam in 2023 legislative session

In Olympia, efforts are underway to tighten protections against robocalls and further penalize violations.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is teaming up with State Rep. Marie Levitt of University Place to crack down on disturbing robocalls, many of which may be scams. The pair is putting HB 1051 up for debate in the 2023 legislative session.

Washington already has a robocall law, but Ferguson says it’s weak and outdated. Ferguson’s office says Washingtonians received 616 million robocalls last year. Almost half of them are scams. And those scams, the attorney general says, ended up killing about 835,000 people in the state.

“Our seniors, youth and more financially vulnerable neighbors are receiving more and more scams in the form of robocalls and other electronic messages targeting cell phones,” Rep. Levitt said in a statement. “These schemes aim to defraud many of our neighbors, friends and loved ones. Our uncles, aunts, parents, and grandparents often expect calls to schedule necessary care, such as medical appointments. But this also provides a perfect opportunity for bad actors to prey on our seniors. Last year alone, these scam calls cost Americans billions. Fixing the defense gap to root out these scams is the least we can do to protect our fellow Washingtonians.”

The proposal, which Ferguson will introduce to the state legislature next month, would make it illegal for someone to be on the Do Not Call registry. It also aims to outlaw the intentional falsification of caller ID information to defraud the recipient, as well as open civil action against voice service providers who knowingly facilitate illegal robocalls.

Ferguson says he wants the legislature to give him the tools he needs to reduce what he calls the “daily bombardment” of spam calls and for his office to prosecute those who break the law.

Ferguson also says his focus is on illegal and spam robocalls, not routine calls to subscribers or business customers who agree to receive automated messages.

Find the full story of Brandon Hollingsworth on Spokane Public Radio.

KUOW’s Dyer Oxley contributed to this report.

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