U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed the TRACED Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to combat the illegal robocall epidemic. Thune also discussed the final step in getting the bill to the president’s desk – passing it in the Senate. Thune is hopeful his TRACED Act could pass before Christmas.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, every American has had to deal with annoying and illegal robocalls.
“All of us have been interrupted at one time or another by a robocall announcing we’ve won a prize or claiming to need important banking information so that our account won’t be closed.
“These calls are a major nuisance.
“But of course they’re not just a nuisance.
“Too many Americans fall victim to sophisticated robocall scammers and have their money or identity stolen.
“These individuals can spend months or years struggling to get their life back after falling prey to these scammers.
“There are currently laws and fines in place to prevent scam artists from preying on people through the telephone, but unfortunately these measures have not been sufficient.
“In many cases, robocall scammers simply build the current fines into the cost of doing business.
“And the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement efforts are hampered by a tight time window for pursuing violators.
“I’ve been working on this issue since my time as chairman of the Commerce Committee, and at the end of last year I introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or TRACED Act, with my colleague Senator Markey.
“The Senate passed our bill in May, and last week our bill was passed by the House.
“The TRACED Act provides tools to discourage illegal robocalls, protect consumers, and crack down on offenders.
“Criminal prosecution of illegal robocallers can be difficult.
“Scammers are frequently based abroad and can quickly shut down shop before authorities can get to them.
“But I believe we need to make sure there is a credible threat of criminal prosecution and prison for those who use robocalls to prey upon the elderly and other vulnerable Americans.
“The TRACED Act convenes a working group with representatives from the Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, state attorneys general, and others to identify ways to criminally prosecute illegal robocalling.
“And in the meantime, it expands the window in which the FCC can pursue scammers and levy fines from one year to four years.
“The bill also makes it easier for your cell phone carrier to lawfully block calls that aren’t properly authenticated, which will ultimately help stop scammers from getting through to your phone.
“The TRACED Act also tackles the issue of spoofed calls – where scammers make the call appear as if it’s coming from a known number.
“I remember an article from my home state a couple of years ago that reported that scammers had successfully spoofed the number of the Watertown Police Department.
“To anyone who received a call, it looked as if it really was the Watertown Police Department calling.
“TRACED also addresses the issue of so-called one-ring scams, where international scammers try to get individuals to return their calls so they can charge them exorbitant fees.
“And it directs the Federal Communications Commission to convene a working group to address the problem of illegal robocalls being made to hospitals.
“There are numerous stories of hospital telephone lines being flooded with robocalls, disrupting critical lines of communication for hours.
“That can’t be allowed to go on.
“Mr. President, I want to thank Senator Markey for partnering with me on the TRACED Act, and my House colleagues for advancing this legislation.
“I’m proud of the bipartisan support our bill has received in both houses of Congress.
“One last step remains before we can get this bill to the president’s desk, and that is Senate passage of the final bill.
“I’m hoping we can get that done in the coming days so that we can get this bill to the president before Christmas.
“While the TRACED Act may not eliminate all the robocalls Americans receive, it will go a long way toward making it safe to answer your phone again.
“I look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law in the near future.”