Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and a series of other senators wrote Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Aug. 9 to urge the commission to protect consumers from cellphone fraud.

The letter, also signed by Sens. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., John Tester, D-Mont., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Angus King, I-Maine, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., noted that there were 680,000 reported victims of cellphone fraud, which represented a 78 percent increase from 2017.

The Senators were specifically concerned about cellphone account fraud, which is also known as subscriber fraud or SIM card cloning fraud.

“Cellphone account fraud – in which scammers either open up a cellphone account in a consumer’s name or illegally clone the consumer’s phone in order to control their messages and data – is growing rapidly and is difficult to detect,” the Senators wrote.

With the significant increase in fraudulent incidents, the Senators urged the FCC to increase its protections for consumers, as well as the educational materials available to consumers on how to avoid fraud.

“Consumer protection is a core responsibility of the FCC,” the letter said. “While we recognize that consumers can take steps to better protect themselves from this fraud … consumers cannot protect themselves from dangers they do not know about. The FCC offers virtually no information to consumers about how to prevent this type of fraud or information about how to seek recourse if they are targeted. Given the seriousness of this issue and its growing prevalence, we urge the FCC to take action to better educate consumers about cellphone fraud and assist victims in understanding their recourse options.”

In addition to urging increased action, the Senators also asked Pai three questions regarding the FCC’s existing efforts to protect consumers:

  • What efforts is the FCC currently undertaking to educate consumers about cellphone account fraud and available methods to protect themselves?
  • Will the FCC commit to working with cellphone providers to develop measures to ensure that all customer accounts are protected?
  • What additional resources and authorities does the FCC need in order to better protect consumers from cellphone account fraud and educate them on how to prevent it?

The Senators did not give Pai a specific deadline as to when they expect his answers but did as for his “prompt attention to this matter.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.