ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Senator Chuck Schumer says new legislation — if approved by Congress — will help phone companies battle ever-increasing spam phone calls that residents across the country are experiencing.
Schumer, visiting Western New York on Monday, says more than 54 million robocalls have been made to the Rochester area so far this year.
He was in Syracuse last week also to talk about the legislation.
“I’ve gotten some of these calls at three in the morning,” says Schumer. “When you have an elderly parent or someone you know is sick, or anybody — a child who’s out… And you get a call at three in the morning. What’s your first reaction? ‘God forbid, I hope that’s not the call I always dreaded.'”
Schumer says beyond the annoyance, the phone calls often target those who are the most vulnerable: The elderly. Sometimes pretending to be police or the IRS, Schumer says authorities need more tools to combat the calls.
“It’s like offensive warfare-defensive warfare,” Schumer explains. “The bad guys find a way to get through. We find a way (do not call list) to stop them. Now they found another way to get through and we found another way to stop them.”
Schumer says new legislation would help phone companies filter out a vast majority of spam calls. It’s called the “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence” Act or the “TRACED” Act.
The TRACED Act would increase penalties for spam calls to $10,000 per call and increase the statute of limitations for violations to three years. The bill would also bring together government agencies to better respond to future spam call techniques and end-arounds to this legislation.
Finally, Schumer says the biggest thing the legislation would do is force telecommunications to use caller authentication technology, which would allow phone companies to better identify and block “spoofed” numbers — which are fake numbers used by spammers to replicate local numbers. For instance, a spam caller from another state or even another country can use a spoofed number to make it appear they are calling from the Rochester area.
The spoofed numbers, Schumer says, makes it difficult for victims to discern whether a call is a threat or not. He says many phone companies already use caller authentication technology but spammers are able to exploit carriers who don’t use the tech. With every carrier using caller authentication, Schumer says phone companies would be able to filter out most spam calls.
The senator expects the legislation to pass some time this summer and carriers should have the technology implemented before the end of the year.