Bill to Crack Down on Deceptive Tactic Used by Robocallers Advances in Senate

The bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Collins, Sinema, Hawley, and Peters would stiffen penalties for scammers that “spoof” caller-IDs to perpetrate scams, including those related to COVID-19

Washington, D.C.— Today, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021, legislation authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Gary Peters (D-MI) to aid Americans who are being inundated with robocalls.  Their bipartisan bill would double the penalties for illegal caller-ID “spoofing,” a tactic scammers often use to trick victims into answering their phone calls.  By disguising their true identity, scammers can masquerade as government officials or well-known businesses and convince consumers to share their personal and financial information.

  

“Older Americans lose billions of dollars each year to an ever-growing array of financial exploitation schemes.  These scams vary in nature, from COVID-19 scams to government imposter scams to prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams,” said Senator Collins.  “We must work together to stop the criminals who use illegal robocalls and spoofing to steal Americans’ hard-earned savings and personal information.  By increasing penalties for spoofing violations, the bipartisan Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act would provide an additional tool in this fight.  I am pleased that the Commerce Committee advanced our legislation today, and I urge my colleagues to support its passage.”

 

“By strengthening penalties we’re ensuring fraudsters are held accountable and all Arizonans, especially seniors, are protected from illegal robocalls, scams, and harassment,” said Senator Sinema.

 

“I often hear from Missourians that nonstop robocalls constantly interrupt their daily lives.  Even worse, the fraudsters behind these robocalls are exploiting and taking advantage of senior citizens,” said Senator Hawley.  “This legislation takes an important step in holding criminal robocallers accountable.  I fought these invasive robocalls as Missouri’s Attorney General and am proud to see this bipartisan effort advance in the Senate.”

 

“Not only are robocalls annoying, but they are often predatory and seek to scam Michiganders. Unfortunately, scammers are using ever-sophisticated methods to better ensure their robocalls are answered,” said Senator Peters. “We must keep working to crack down on these robocalls and increase penalties for illegal spoofing, which is why I’m pleased to see this bipartisan bill advance in the Senate.”

 

“Spoofing” of caller-IDs is commonly used by criminal robocallers to mask their true identity.  Con artists use this technique to boost their credibility and fool victims by making it appear as though they are calling from the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the local police department, or another legitimate source.  The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to new phone, text, and email scams that seek to trick or frighten consumers into sharing personal information and financial details.

 

In 2010, Congress passed the Truth in Caller ID Act, which prohibits the use of misleading or inaccurate caller-ID information to intentionally defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.  The use of this deceptive tactic has exploded since then, however, underscoring the need for stronger deterrent measures.

 

The bipartisan Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act would double the penalties for illegal spoofing under existing law, increasing the fine per violation from $10,000 to $20,000 and increasing the maximum fine from $1 million to $2 million. 

 

Consumers can help protect themselves from fraud by:

 

  • Hanging up on suspicious calls from “government officials” calling about a problem;

 

  • Never making payments with gift cards, wire transfers, or by mailing cash;

 

 

 

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