August 12, 2019

Union Leader: Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan -- Hanging up on the practice of illegal robocalls

It is a daily occurrence: your phone rings and it isn’t a family member, friend, or even another human being calling. No, it’s yet another scam robocall.

Scam robocalls are increasingly frequent and intrusive. To stop these predatory calls, the Senate recently passed bipartisan legislation that we’ve worked on to protect consumers.

In 2017, Americans received roughly 30 billion robocalls. By 2018, that number increased to 48 billion — 45 percent of the total phone calls in general that the American people received. In New Hampshire alone, Granite Staters received 12.3 million robocalls in just the month of April this year.

The constant stream of robocalls is not just annoying; it is also increasingly dangerous. It’s no longer just telemarketers trying to convince you to buy a product; more and more robocalls are scams targeting your personal information and finances.

These scammers are taking a deceptive approach to make it likelier for people to pick up the phone. It’s now commonplace for robocallers to manipulate their phone numbers to make it seem like you are receiving a call from your own area code — even if the call is coming from an entity that is hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Once they get you to pick up, scam robocallers will do and say anything to get your information — from offering you free travel or zero interest rates, to saying that you owe money to the IRS or that there is a problem with your credit card. These predators have deceived too many Americans into unknowingly giving away their information, losing money, or becoming victims of fraud.

These practices must end.

We’ve heard from people across New Hampshire that scam robocalls are a problem.

In April, we joined a bipartisan group in cosponsoring the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act to address the growing number of robocall scams targeting Granite Staters and Americans.

This bill would enact commonsense steps to go after bad actors who seek to take advantage of consumers and would hold them accountable for their illegal schemes.

Our bill would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to impose a $10,000 fine per call on those who intentionally violate telemarketing restrictions by making illegal calls.

Next, it would improve the FCC’s ability to catch these bad actors by increasing the statute of limitations to give regulators more time to find and take action against scammers.

Our bill would also improve coordination between state and federal governments by bringing relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to evaluate the policies and resources necessary to better prosecute and deter illegal robocalls. Finally, it would promote authentication technologies — which help phone carriers determine if incoming calls are legitimate before they reach a consumer’s phone.

This is a bipartisan priority that’s gaining traction. The Senate passed the TRACED Act with 97 votes, and similar legislation recently passed the House of Representatives. We are committed to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to send comprehensive legislation to the President’s desk that will hold scammers accountable and give the public much-needed relief from illegal robocalls.

No one should have to worry about getting scammed because they answered their phone. This bill is a strong, bipartisan step forward in standing up for consumer protections and working to stop illegal robocalls.

Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both former New Hampshire governors, represent New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.