Complaints to Government Show Americans’ Slow Descent Into Madness Over Spam Calls

"HOW LONG MUST I FEAR", wrote one citizen beset by robocalls.
Man looking at phone. Getty Images
Getty Images

People at the limit of their patience with spam calls have been emailing the chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, in a desperate attempt to make the unwanted calls from scammers and robocallers stop. Emails obtained by the transparency site Government Attic under the Freedom of Information Act paint a picture of desperate people who just want the phone to stop ringing.

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Robocalls are automated phone calls, usually from telemarketers or scammers, sometimes used to target people for fraud. Spam calls are similar, but there’s a human on the other end. Both types of calls have plagued most people with a phone line in the U.S. for years; recently, the government has passed regulations to try to stop unwanted calls. 

The FCC encourages people to report unwanted calls or spoofed phone numbers—“Your complaint provides valuable information that we use to inform policy decisions,” its website says—but that process involves filling out a specific form online, not sending emails directly to the FCC chairwoman’s inbox. 

For some people, however, the frustration they’re feeling seems to be sending angry rants and begging into the void.

One elderly person’s plea directly to Rosenworcel frames the problem as a matter of life and death: “I have been continuously harassed with such calls for years and it's only getting worse. I am now 70 years old and live alone. I have a landline and try to answer all incoming calls as one never knows when an emergency or request for assistance is at hand,” they said. “Though I try to hang up when I identify an unwanted call, these calls increase my chance of having a serious ( or fatal) fall with no one present in my home to assist. [...] HOW LONG MUST I FEAR BEING SERIOUSLY OR FATALLY INJURED AS A VICTIM OF SPAM/SPOOF PHONE CALLS INTO MY HOME? If I do fall to these criminals, it may never be known that the event was precipitated from an unwanted call.” 

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Someone wrote to FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks with the subject line “Time to go to work,” asking if he needed “help” accomplishing the goal of ending robocalls. “This doesn't seem difficult. Why are you and your agency failing?” 

Some people wrote just to offer their own ideas for how to fix robocalls. “I think we need to create an anatomy of the most common scam setups. Scammers prey on the most vulnerable people in our society. lf we work together, we can stop these time-wasting scammers,” wrote one person, who originally emailed cloud communications company Voyant and then CC’d Rosenworcel, former commissioner Mike O’Rielly, former chairman Ajit Pai, and a slew of other telecom companies. 

“Congratulations on your attainment of the Chair, even if it is cunently[sic] acting,” one wrote. “Perhaps your people will be more responsive than they were under Mr. Pai. I never received a response to the filing I made in 2017 which outlined the only way to stop spoofing by robocallers.”

“Good Morning, Ms. Rosenworcel, I have invented a solution that stops Robocalls 100% but since I am not an insider in the communications industry, I am not having an easy time getting to the potential buyers of my product, i.e. Google, Apple, Verizon, T Mobile, AT&T, etc,” another wrote. “Any chance you could help get me in front of the industry leaders?”

Others got straight to the point: “M. Rosenworcel: Why am I still getting robocalls? I thought June 30 was the big day,” someone wrote in September 2021. June 30 was the day when the FCC’s STIR/SHAKEN anti-spoofing standards for authenticating Caller ID information went into effect, which would enable carriers to block spoofed numbers used by spam callers to get around client’s blocks.

“I’m writing out of desperation about the excessive robocalls and unsolicited text messages that I receive on a daily basis,” someone wrote to New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski and CC’d Rosenworcel. “Recently, I even started getting these calls and text messages late into the night and on the weekends (a first).” 

Others detailed every robocall they had gotten on a day, the purpose of the call, and the time of the call.

“I have had 13 robocalls before noon today,” someone wrote to Rosenworcel. “AT&T says they don't have the technology to do this. If that's the case, they are too incompetent to be in the business. Thank you.” 

“What are you doing to end robocalls to Americans?” wrote another. “Do you need to be replaced? Is there a problem that prevents you from doing your job?”