New York enacts tougher robocall laws but effectiveness unclear

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday signed two bills into law that aim to crack down on robocalls and prevent scammers from illegally spoofing phone numbers.

"New Yorkers are fed up with annoying, predatory robocalls, and we're taking action to stop them," Hochul said in a statement. "This legislation will enable telecom companies to prevent these calls from coming in in the first place, as well as empower our state government to ensure that voice service providers are validating who is making these calls so enforcement action can be taken against bad actors."

Effective immediately, non-compliant companies can be hit with a maximum penalty of $100,000 per offense. 

Assembly member Amy Paulin sponsored both bills, which put the onus on the phone companies to keep these calls from getting through.

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"You must have the technology to be able to detect these robocalls," Paulin said. "And then the other bill says you cannot let them through."

The FCC has tried similar tactics to stop the robocalls, according to Brad Reaves, a professor of computer science at NC State University.

"The initial technical changes aren't going to be as helpful, particularly because of the way that the telephone network works," Reaves said. "There are still lots of older technologies in use that can't be upgraded."

Reaves said most of the robocalls are coming from overseas, making prosecuting these cases nearly impossible.

"The robocallers are operating businesses, they're very profitable," he said. "And so they're going to continue to take every action that they can to maintain their profit margin."

U.S. consumers received nearly 4 billion robocalls per month in 2020, according to the FCC, and they remain the agency's top complaint and priority.