We’ve all been there. The phone rings and it’s a number you don’t recognize. The odds are good the “person” on the other end of the line wants to update your car warranty, help you get a free vacation or check your credit score.
Other times, it’s far more insidious. These unknown callers say they are from the IRS or the Social Security Administration and ask for highly personal information. They sound like they could be legitimate, but they definitely aren’t. Unfortunately, many fall prey to these phone scams every day.
These calls aren’t just unwarranted and unwanted, many are highly illegal. It’s estimated that nearly 45% of calls to cell phones this year will be from scam callers. Even with the Do Not Call Registry, which was implemented in 2003, these scammers have found ways to get around the law, or they simply don’t care about paying the current fines.
Earlier this year, before all the impeachment hoopla, the House set out to change that by passing good legislation to address illegal robocalls. I was proud to support the original bill and the version we finally got around to passing this week after months of delay. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED) Act will make several key reforms to strengthen our laws and help law enforcement agencies clamp down on illegal robocalls.
First, the TRACED Act establishes nationwide caller authentication system. This will significantly reduce the chances that the number that appears on your caller ID is coming from someone it’s not—targeting scammers who use falsified caller ID information to trick Americans into revealing personal information over the phone.
Second, this legislation allows folks with landlines to block unlawful calls in a consistent and transparent way. While folks with cell phones currently have the ability to block numbers, many with landlines aren’t afforded that opportunity without paying extra. The TRACED Act changes that, allowing folks with landlines this service for no extra charge.
Finally, illegal robocallers have made it clear that the current fines and enforcement measures aren’t strict enough to keep them from breaking the law. Going forward, law enforcement and the FCC will be given additional tools to go after law-breaking robocallers. Those who violate the law could be fined up to $10,000 per call. With increased enforcement and higher fines, hopefully those looking to perpetrate these scams will think twice.
If there is one issue that all Americans can agree on, it’s that these unrelenting robocalls are frustrating, annoying and need to be stopped. I was proud to vote to pass the TRACED Act this week to do just that—and finally hang up on scam robocalls.