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SaukValley: Tired of robocalls? Help is on the way

Bipartisan bill to fight them sent to Senate and should soon become law

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STERLING, IL, December 14, 2019 | comments

Amid the divisiveness of an impending Senate impeachment trial in Washington, there are still a few issues that can generate bipartisan support.

Legislation to fight those annoying robocalls consumers are getting at an alarming rate has the overwhelming support of both parties and should soon become law.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, have both pushed hard to pass the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The bill breezed through the House, by a 417-3 margin, and now it moves to the Senate, where a similar result is expected. President Donald Trump has also indicated he will sign the TRACED bill when it arrives on his desk.

“This is a combination of the initial House and Senate bills, so this bill should soon become law,” Bustos said.

Robocalls are computer-generated phone calls that use an automated dialing system to deliver a prerecorded message. There are legal robocalls – some are used for public service messages or legitimate telemarketing or political campaigns – but some are illegal and of a fraudulent nature. What most have in common is that they ask you to do something. It might be something legal like trying to get votes for a political candidate or a scam call from someone posing as an IRS worker who is trying to get your money or personal information.

Spoofing can be used to make a scam call look like it’s coming from a known and trusted local phone number. The Federal Communications Commission, under the Truth in Caller ID Act, prohibits the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information if it’s done with the intent to harm or defraud someone. If it’s determined that no harm was intended, spoofing is perfectly legal.

The TRACED bill certainly wouldn’t put an end to robocalls, but it could dramatically reduce them. It is estimated that 54 billion robocalls have been made this year and consumer complaints have increased in concert with the volume.

“We’ve received more than 300 calls, emails and texts about the issue in the last few months,” Bustos said. “This is a good piece of legislation that will make a big difference for consumers.”

Kinzinger’s office has also been besieged by robocall complaints from constituents of the 16th Congressional District.

“It became a big issue in the last year or 2, when people started using IP phones through the internet,” Kinzinger said. “Numbers could be scanned and spoofing really took off.”

The bill would attack the problem on two major fronts. It would give the FCC and law enforcement the tools they need to make meaningful changes. It would set up new caller ID authentication technologies that phone service providers can use to block unwanted robocalls.

“The phone carriers will be required to offer those authentication services to all customers at no charge,” Bustos said. “Blocking technology would also be provided to all consumers and they could opt in or out.”

While the practice will never end, consumers welcome anything that will reduce the number of calls being made. Congress could craft additional bills to plug any gaps in the TRACED Act.

“Once this legislation is implemented, we will examine its impact and look for any holes in it,” Kinzinger said. “That might include going more on the offensive to track down who’s doing it and better crack down on the practice.”

While there won’t be a separate fee for the anti-robocall service, phone service providers could pass along the costs through higher rates.


Open this link to read of copy of the entire Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act.

The original article can be found on the Sauk Valley website here.
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