Menendez Gets Robocalled during Press Conference Pushing for Crackdown on Illegal Robocalls

Menendez Gets Robocalled during Press Conference Pushing for Crackdown on Illegal Robocalls

TRACED Act would increase fines, bolster enforcement, require phone companies to develop call authentication, blocking technology

 

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today urged Congress to pass legislation he’s cosponsoring to crack down on annoying, disruptive and illegal robocalls by holding those on the other end of line accountable with stiffer fines and increased enforcement, while requiring phone companies to develop call authentication and blocking technology.  The press conference was briefly interrupted when Sen. Menendez received a robocall on his cell phone asking about a bogus overdue warranty issue.

 

Despite a federal “Do Not Call” Registry, telemarketers and phone scammers continue to flout the law, placing 5.2 billion illegal calls in March nationwide—including over 134 million in New Jersey or 13 per person on average—according to YouMail’s Robocall Index.

“These robocallers care about one thing—ripping you off. 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,” said Sen. Menendez.  “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 (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 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. Illegal robocallers are increasingly using technology to “spoof” caller-ID phone numbers, including from your own area or government agencies, and in rare cases from yourself.

Several constituents joined the Senator at his Newark Office for a news conference and shared their personal stories of being harassed by unwanted calls, including: Newark small business owner Frank Ambrosio; Lawrence Frenkel, a 75-year-old retired professor of pediatrics from Somerset; and Kit Turner, an Air Force veteran who runs a non-profit helping homeless vets. 

Sen. Menendez is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act (S. 151), which unanimously passed the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month.  It 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.

 

Specifically, the TRACED Act:

  • Broadens the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call who intentionally flout 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 the, FCC, FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP), Departments of Justice, Commerce, State, and Homeland Security, and other relevant federal agencies, as well as state attorneys general and other non-federal entities, to identify and report to Congress on improving deterrence and criminal prosecution at the federal and state level of robocall scams;
  • Requires providers of voice services to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones;
  • Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers using unauthenticated numbers.

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“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,” Sen. Menendez said.  “Simply put, we need action to end the scourge of robocalls—and that means we need the Majority Leader to bring the TRACED Act to the floor of the Senate.”

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Sen. Menendez has been a leader in Congress in fighting to enforce “Do Not Call” and stop illegal, unwanted phone calls.  Last April and June, he separately called on the FCC to establish protections for consumers from unwanted and harassing robocalls and robotexts.  The Senator repeatedly pressed the FCC in 2017 to take aggressive action to increase robocall enforcement, protect consumers from invasive “ringless” voicemails, and end the harassing phone calls.  In 2015, Sen. Menendez cosponsored the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act and urged Pay-Pal to change its user agreement that forces consumers to accept unwanted phone calls.

 

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Press Contact

Steven_Sandberg@menendez.senate.gov