With tremendous support from both the House and Senate, President Trump signed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law last week to try and combat the issue of robocall scams. The TRACED Act increases the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), calls upon telephone service providers to implement systems that prevent robocallers from spoofing caller ID, and places limits on entities that are legally permitted to make robocalls.
Related reading: New Pennsylvania Do-Not-Call List registers numbers permanently
The new law gives the FCC authority to pursue scammers for first offenses instead of having to provide a warning first. Maximum fines have been increased to $10,000, and the statute of limitations for robocall scam cases may now be extended up to four years. In addition, the FCC is now required to share evidence of criminal robocall violations with the Department of Justice to further crack down on phone scammers. Civil penalties have done little to deter telephone scammers and robocallers, so the DOJ will begin implementing criminal prosecutions in some cases.
In order to protect consumers, the TRACED Act also states that robocall blocking and authentication services should be provided by telecommunication companies at no additional line charge on phone bills. The law also requires consumers to receive a notification when a call has been blocked to ensure that important calls, such as public safety messages, are not accidentally blocked.
Under the TRACED Act, the FCC will begin working with foreign governments to develop strategies to end "one-ring" scams. These scams are performed by overseas callers who dial random people and either hang up immediately or leave fake messages about a sick relative or a package delivery. The goal is to get the target to call back, which results in connection or toll fees.
The implementation of the federal TRACED Act closely follows Pennsylvania's amendment to the Telemarketer Registration Act. The new additions, approved in October and in effect since early December, enable businesses to register their phone numbers on the Do-Not-Call list, make the list permanent instead of requiring renewal, require robocalls to offer an "opt-out" feature to prevent future unwanted calls, and ban robocalls on legal holidays.