The content of the calls is always familiar but slightly varied — your credit is bad, your credit card is overdrawn, your student loan payments are due. Robocalls are not only annoying, but prerecorded telemarketing calls are illegal in most cases.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., has introduced a bill to create stronger punishments for people found to be behind illegal robocalls.
“I don’t know of anybody who hasn’t been impacted by (these calls),” said Cortez Masto, noting they are frequently used to scam the elderly. “These calls are being made to the most vulnerable people of our community.”
The current punishment for robocalls is a civil penalty, which has failed to deter the practice, Cortez Masto said.
The proposed legislation would penalize violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with up to a year in prison and increase the maximum fine for falsifying a caller ID number to $20,000. The bill also defines aggravated offenses, which would carry a maximum three-year prison sentence.
U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., have also signed onto the bill.
“Most robocalls aren’t just unwanted and disruptive — they are illegal and often target seniors and vulnerable Americans,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “Our legislation will give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on scammers and deter criminals from abusing robocalls.”
On a state level, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has asked the Federal Communications Commission to take action on the growing problem of robocalls and spoofing — manipulation of a call to hide where it is coming from on caller IDs.
Ford said he supports Cortez Masto’s bill. “Many Nevada families have been harassed, annoyed or even scammed by illegal robocalls,” he said.
Cortez Masto said she has not seen bipartisan interest in the bill yet but is working on gathering support. “This is an issue that impacts every single one of our states,” she said.