Americans received more than 48 billion robocalls last year.
Washington, D.C. — Amidst ever-increasing numbers of robocall scams, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously today to pass legislation co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins and Angus King to increase federal law enforcement’s authority to put a stop to these illegal calls. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act makes it easier for regulators to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally flout laws. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Americans are being inundated with illegal robocalls that are not only a major nuisance, but also a tool that is often used by con artists to perpetrate crimes,” said Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee. “Over the course of the two dozen hearings I have held to expose and examine scams, it is clear that a coordinated approach is necessary to put a stop to these illegal calls. The TRACED Act is a significant step forward that will help prevent fraudulent calls and put criminals on notice that they will be caught and brought to justice. I am pleased that the final version of the legislation was improved by including an extension of the statute of limitations for caller-ID ‘spoofing’ violations, which I advocated for.”
“At best, illegal robocalls are a major annoyance – at worst, they’re scams that target our most vulnerable citizens,” said Senator King. “Today’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote reflects the obvious: Republicans, Democrats and Independents can all agree that it’s time to hang up on illegal robocalls once and for all.”
The TRACED Act will:
· Broaden the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on people who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions;
· Extend the window for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations to three years after a robocall is placed. Under current law, the FCC has only one year to do so, and the FCC has said that “even a one-year longer statute of limitations for enforcement” would improve enforcement against willful violators;
· Require telephone companies to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones;
· Requires telephone companies to provide robocall blocking technology at no additional charge; and
· Direct the FCC to initiate rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers.
As one report estimated, nearly half of all calls made to mobile phones will be spam by the end of this year. The TRACED Act would give the FCC more flexibility to enforce rules in the short term, while setting in motion consultations to increase prosecutions of violations, which often require international cooperation.
As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of Senator Collins’ top priorities is to combat scams that target seniors. Earlier this year, she introduced a bill that would extend the statute of limitations on spoofing. The TRACED Act includes a provision extending—from the current two years to four years—the amount of time law enforcement can bring charges against criminal robocallers who use spoofing to mask their identity. Senator Collins has held 24 hearings over the past seven years on issues related to fraud and scams targeting older adults. Additionally, the Aging Committee published the 2019 Fraud Book, which details the top 10 scams reported to the Committee’s toll-free Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) last year.