Anti-Robocall Bill Heads to President's Desk for Signature

Posted on 12/23/19

Unknown number calling while car driving. Phone call from stranger. Person holding mobile and smartphone in livingroom late. Unexpected call disturbs at car ride.

The Senate took aim Thursday at the illegal robocalls and spoofed calls often used by scammers, giving final legislative approval to a measure the president is expected to sign into law soon.

According to an industry estimate, in November alone there were more than 5 billion robocalls in the U.S., or more than 167 million a day.

AARP endorsed the measure. Nancy LeaMond, its executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said all Americans will benefit from the safety provisions of the measure.

"Con artists frequently use illegal robocalls to deceive victims into paying money under false pretenses,” LeaMond said.

Bipartisan agreement
Senators passed the bill on a voice vote. Earlier in December, the House approved it on a 417-3 vote.

The measure is called the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, named for key proponents Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, and Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

Both Montana U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines consponsored the bill and Rep. Gianforte voted for it in the House.

"This bipartisan legislation will help fight back against illegal robocalls," said Tim Summers, AARP Montana State Director. "Since most of these unwanted calls are associated with fraud, Montanans of all ages will benefit from this important measure. We applaud both Senator Tester and Senator Daines for cosponsoring this very important piece of consumer protection legislation and we appreciate Rep Gianforte’s yes vote."

TRACED stands for Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence.

Once the measure becomes law it “will begin to make an important down payment on the fight against illegal robocalls,” Thune said Thursday.

An aide to Pallone said it's expected the bill could be signed into law before Christmas.

The robocall statistics are from YouMail, an Irvine, California, firm that offers a free robocall-blocking service for mobile phones.

Consumers in the U.S. were bombarded with nearly 54 billion robocalls during the first 11 months of the year, it says.

Certain robocalls are legal, such as those from legitimate charities and informational calls, for example, about school closures.

Rules on political campaign-related calls vary depending on how they are delivered. For example, they are not allowed to mobile phones without a recipient's prior consent, the FCC says.

Under the measure:

  • Phone companies over time must implement call-authentication technology to ensure the information that appears on caller-ID is correct. Consumers would face no additional line-item charge for the service.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) within a year must ensure consumers are offered robocall-blocking services with no additional line-item charge.(Last June the FCC let phone companies offer robocall blocking by default; earlier consumers had to opt in to the feature.)
  • The FCC will have greater powers to deter violators with larger fines and a longer statute of limitations.
  • The FCC must tell the U.S. attorney general if it finds repeated robocall violations with an intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value. The aim is to step up criminal prosecutions by the Justice Department.
  • The FCC must combat so-called one-ring scams. These calls originate overseas and ring briefly to induce a return call, with potentially hefty charges for consumers.
  • On its website, the agency warns that one-ring calls may appear to originate from this country with the first three numbers resembling U.S. area codes and cautions that 232 calls go to Sierra Leone and 809 to the Dominican Republic.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts," review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

More about Robocalls

This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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