Vern Buchanan Wants House Committee to Hold a Hearing on Robocalls

This week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., called on a key congressional committee to hold a public hearing into the growing problem of unsolicited robocalls in Florida and elsewhere.

In a letter to the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, which regulates the telephone industry, Buchanan said restrictions enacted by Congress two years ago may be inadequate and in need of revision.

“It’s time to silence these calls once and for all,” Buchanan said on Monday, noting they present a particular problem for vulnerable seniors.

“Our senior citizens are high-priority targets for scam artists and unscrupulous actors,” Buchanan added. “It’s critical we do everything in our power to protect seniors from fraudulent robocalls.

“These are more than just a minor inconvenience, phone scams can defraud innocent Americans out of their life savings especially vulnerable seniors,” the congressman continued.

The leading types of illegal robocalls involved health scams and car warranty pitches.

Robocalls are up 15 percent over the past year with a staggering 4.6 billion of these unwanted calls made in February alone including 386 million in Florida, according to the new report by robocall-blocking app YouMail. As global economies begin to reopen, the problem is likely to get worse.

If the current trend continues, more than 51 billion robocalls will be sent out this year, exceeding 2020’s annual total by 12 percent, Buchanan said, citing estimates from YouMail.

Buchanan noted that two years ago Congress passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act in an attempt to crack down on the growth of these illegal calls .

“A hearing would also provide the committee an opportunity to update the public on the implementation of call authentication technology that was required under the bill. Rigorous oversight is needed to help determine if the TRACED Act is falling short of its goals of protecting the American people from unwanted, disruptive, fraudulent, and/or potentially harmful telephone solicitations,” Buchanan insisted.

Buchanan sent the following letter to U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, the chairman of the committee, and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the top Republican on it.

Dear Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers:

With robocalls continuing to shatter records and harass the American people nationwide, I am urging you to hold a public hearing to address this growing problem and examine the federal response to silence these calls once and for all.

In February alone a staggering 4.6 billion robocalls were made in the United States, according to an independent monitoring organization. This marked a 15 percent increase over January’s total and the highest monthly total since February of last year — right before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country. If this current trend continues, more than 51 billion robocalls will be sent out this year, exceeding 2020’s annual total by 12 percent.

As you well know, last Congress Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act to crack down on illegal robocalls and allow regulators to swiftly track down scammers and penalize them with a fine up to $10,000 per call. It also requires phone companies, like Verizon and AT&T, to upgrade their caller ID systems to notify customers if a call is coming from a legitimate number.

With certain provisions of the TRACED Act recently entering into force, now is the perfect time to examine the implementation and enforcement of this new law to determine if further support or legislative action is needed. It is especially concerning that robocalls have continued to increase despite these new regulations.

A hearing would also provide the committee an opportunity to update the public on the implementation of call authentication technology that was required under the bill. Rigorous oversight is needed to help determine if the TRACED Act is falling short of its goals of protecting the American people from unwanted, disruptive, fraudulent, and/or potentially harmful telephone solicitations.

Our senior citizens are high-priority targets for scam artists and unscrupulous actors. That is why it is so important that we do everything in our power to protect seniors from fraudulent robocalls. These are more than just a minor inconvenience – phone scams can defraud innocent Americans out of their life savings – especially vulnerable seniors.

I look forward to your response and stand ready to help crack down against the growing wave of robocalls.

 

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