Menendez Pushes for Crackdown on Robocalls

Senator Gets Robocalled During Press Conference
Apr 15, 2019
Illustration by: Ryan Morrill

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s April 12 news conference on legislation to fight robocalls was briefly interrupted when the senator received a robocall on his cell phone asking about his vehicle’s factory warranty. Despite a federal Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers and phone scammers continue to scoff at the law.

According to YouMail’s Robocall Index, there were 5.2 billion illegal calls nationwide in March alone – including more than 134 million in New Jersey, or 13 per person, on average.

Menendez is urging Congress to pass the bill he’s cosponsoring to crack down on these disruptive and illegal calls. The measure includes stiffer fines for those on the other end of the line and increased enforcement, and it requires phone companies to develop call authentication and blocking technology.

The bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which unanimously passed the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month, has broad support, with 44 Senate Republicans and Democrats signed on, and 54 state and territory attorneys general – including New Jersey’s Gurbir Grewal – backing the bill.

“These robocallers care about one thing – ripping you off,” said Menendez. “And the American people are sick and tired of it. Increasingly, these scam artists are using sophisticated spoofing technology to hide who they are and flout the law to get around the federal Do Not Call Registry. It’s happened to all of us. It happens to me. What we need are tougher laws to go after the scam artists who don’t play by the rules in the first place, and better protections for consumers constantly bombarded by these calls.”

The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission regularly cite “unwanted and illegal robocalls” as their No. 1 complaint category from constituents. In FY 2018, the FTC received 3,790,614 complaints about robocalls. The FTC’s most recent data shows that in 2017, New Jersey residents made more complaints, per capita, than any other state, with 321,393 complaints.

“We need to catch, prosecute and punish robocallers who make a living ripping off consumers. We need big phone companies to adopt the technology we know can stop spoofed calls in their tracks,” Menendez remarked.

The TRACED Act broadens the authority of the FCC to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on those who intentionally ignore telemarketing restrictions; extends the window for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations from one to three years after a robocall is placed; brings together a number of federal and state agencies and entities to identify and report to Congress on improving deterrence and criminal prosecution of robocall scams; requires providers of voice services to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate; and directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers using unauthenticated numbers.

“We need action to end the scourge of robocalls,” said Menendez, “and that means we need the majority leader to bring the TRACED Act to the floor of the Senate.”

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

 

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