A New Senate Bill Would Hit Robocallers With Up to a $10,000 Fine for Every Call

Sen. John Thune and Sen. Ed Markey are co-authors of the TRACED Act
Sen. John Thune and Sen. Ed Markey are co-authors of the TRACED Act
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)

Democrats and Republicans can agree on at least one thing: The spam robocall situation has gotten entirely out of hand.

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Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat, and Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, introduced a bill on Friday that aims to ramp up the penalties on illegal robocalls—and stop them from reaching your phone in the first place.

The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, raises the penalty for robocalls from $1,500 per call to up to $10,000 per call, and allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on illegal robocalls up to three years after the calls are placed, instead of a year.

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The Act also aims to push the FCC to work along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other agencies to provide information to Congress about advancements in hindering robocall and prosecuting scammers.

Perhaps most importantly for us highly annoyed Americans, the bill would also force phone service providers to use call authentication that filters out illegitimate calls before they go through to consumers.

Thune explained in a statement that current regulations are inadequate because were made for “lawful telemarketers” that mess up. “This enforcement regime is totally inadequate for scam artists and we need do more to separate enforcement of carelessness and other mistakes from more sinister actors,” Thune added.

One company that monitors robocalls and provides a blocking service, YouMail, estimates that 5.1 billion robocalls were made to U.S. phones just last month.

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“As the scourge of spoofed calls and robocalls reaches epidemic levels, the bipartisan TRACED Act will provide every person with a phone much-needed relief,” Markey said in a statement. “It’s a simple formula: call authentication, blocking, and enforcement, and this bill achieves all three.”

[U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation]

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Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

I’ve had this idea for a while that I think would help stop all of this.

Lets say I need to give you my phone number. I give you the number, but I also assign you your own PIN number. You dial, get prompted for the PIN, enter it correctly and my phone rings. If you don’t have a PIN or get it wrong, all you get is voicemail.

Lets say you become a real pain in my ass and I don’t want to deal with your harassing me making my phone blow up with 800 calls a day. I can revoke your PIN number and DO NOT have to get a new phone number.

Far as the PIN number, let us say you only get 3 tries to get it right. If you don’t, your phone number goes into blocked number purgatory till I remove it from that list. Just to defeat bots.

I may be missing something and there could be a huge flaw in this idea I don’t see. But seems like a solution that could be done easily and cheaply enough.