President Trump signed into law a measure that takes aim at the illegal robocalls and spoofed calls often used by scammers.
According to an industry estimate, in November alone there were more than 5 billion robocalls in the U.S., or more than 167 million a day.
AARP endorsed the measure. Nancy LeaMond, its executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said all Americans will benefit from the safety provisions of the measure.
"Con artists frequently use illegal robocalls to deceive victims into paying money under false pretenses,” LeaMond said.
Under the measure:
- Phone companies over time must implement call-authentication technology to ensure the information that appears on caller-ID is correct. Consumers would face no additional line-item charge for the service.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) within a year must ensure consumers are offered robocall-blocking services with no additional line-item charge.(Last June the FCC let phone companies offer robocall blocking by default; earlier consumers had to opt in to the feature.)
- The FCC will have greater powers to deter violators with larger fines and a longer statute of limitations.
- The FCC must tell the U.S. attorney general if it finds repeated robocall violations with an intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value. The aim is to step up criminal prosecutions by the Justice Department.
- The FCC must combat so-called one-ring scams. These calls originate overseas and ring briefly to induce a return call, with potentially hefty charges for consumers.
- On its website, the agency warns that one-ring calls may appear to originate from this country with the first three numbers resembling U.S. area codes and cautions that 232 calls go to Sierra Leone and 809 to the Dominican Republic.
Senators passed the bill on a voice vote and the president signed it on December 30.. Earlier in December, the House approved it on a 417-3 vote.
The measure is called the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, named for key proponents Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, and Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
TRACED stands for Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence.
Once the measure becomes law it “will begin to make an important down payment on the fight against illegal robocalls,” Thune said Thursday.
The robocall statistics are from YouMail, an Irvine, California, firm that offers a free robocall-blocking service for mobile phones.
Consumers in the U.S. were bombarded with nearly 54 billion robocalls during the first 11 months of the year, it says.
Certain robocalls are legal, such as those from legitimate charities and informational calls, for example, about school closures.
Rules on political campaign-related calls vary depending on how they are delivered. For example, they are not allowed to mobile phones without a recipient's prior consent, the FCC says.
This story has been updated with information that the bill has been signed into law.