Robocall

Let’s hope a new federal law will make 2020 the year that cracks down on illegal robocalls. On Monday, President Donald Trump signed into law the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which should help curb the billions of abusive and annoying automated calls that have increasingly clogged our phones.

According to the office of Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who was among the cosponsors of the bipartisan measure, the new law gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, requires service provides to adopt call authentication and blocking, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally break laws.

We’re not talking about automated calls from your dentist reminding you of an appointment or your pharmacy letting you know your prescription is ready. This law targets intrusive calls that seek to defraud you.

Nearly half of all calls to mobile phones last year were estimated to be scam calls, a 2019 Federal Communications Commission report showed. That number includes those irritating spoofing calls that show a phone number eerily similar to yours.

YouMail, a third-party robocall-blocking software company, estimates that more than 24.9 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. during the first five months of 2019. That’s nearly half of the total made in all of 2018, and almost as many as were made during 2017. While the new law won’t magically make all of them disappear, it should reduce the growing scourge of illegal calls. Past enforcement has been tough because many of the callers are overseas. The new law builds on recent steps taken by the FCC, state attorneys general and industry groups.

Consumer advocates called the law a good step in the fight against robocalls. “With this legislation, phone companies will be required to give all consumers meaningful new protections against these calls and Americans will finally get some relief from the ringing telephone,” said Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst with Consumer Reports. We won’t miss those calls.

—Pamela Stallsmith

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