Government agencies propose new laws to crack down on robocalls

North Carolina

 The number of robocalls continues to grow, scare, and annoy people across America.

Now, there are moves on several fronts to silence the ring of those calls which come from both telemarketers and criminals.

The phone—once an essential communication device, has become a tool for fraud, scams and harassment and none of us are immune from robocalls.

“I received a phone call from the DEA and they were threatening,” said robocall victim Charlotte Rucker.

Except, of course, it wasn’t from the real DEA. 

The call began like this: “This is an automated voice message from the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

“When I first heard the message and it said DEA and my heart went pitter patter,” said Rucker. “But, then I thought about it and said the DEA doesn’t call you–they knock or kick the door in.”

Even though she refused to answer the phone when that number showed up, the scammers kept calling Rucker leaving voice messages saying, “This call is to inform you that your personal information has been linked to an ongoing federal investigation. The evidence points to your involvement in various federal crimes.”

So, consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia asked Rucker to call the number using his phone to see what happened.

A live person in what sounded like a boiler-room full of other operators answered saying in a heavily accented voice that he was with the DEA.

When he asked for her name, our Steve Sbraccia told her to make one up.

Despite being given the fake name, they immediately began asking for personal information starting with her social security number.

At that point, Sbraccia stepped in to question the so-called DEA agent.

When Sbraccia identified himself and tried to ask why they were requesting personal information, the fake DEA agent hung up.

“I guess it’s a scam,” said Rucker. “The first thing they wanted to know was my social security number.”

Last year Americans dealt with 48-billion robocalls which has finally spurred congress to act.

Last Friday, the U.S. Senate approved a robocall abuse act that would charge stiff fines for each fake call.

Called the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, it was approved 97-1. Only Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the bill.

The bill would allow the FCC to impose fines of $10,000 per call for violations.

It also expands robocall enforcement powers of federal agencies including the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Commerce, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so they can more effectively deal with scammers and others who make robocalls.

For Joyce Moorman that eventually might offer some relief, because she is plagued all day long with scores of robocalls, sometimes every 10 or 15 minutes.

“They start at 7:30 in the morning and don’t stop till 4:30 in the afternoon,’’ said Moorman. “It’s aggravating because I have doctors calling me and specialists calling me and I have to answer the phone.”

Scammers like to disguise themselves by using fake (or spoofed) caller ID names and numbers.

Last month, the North Carolina House voted unanimously to approve the Truth-In-Caller ID Act that makes it illegal to spoof a phone number in this state and provides hefty fines if one is convicted.

In Washington, the U.S. House has yet to vote on the TRACED act.

In the meantime, the FCC is set to vote in early June on a proposal to allow cell phone carriers to use new technology to block robocalls from their end. 

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