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Collins introduces bill to penalize robocalls

From Sen. Collins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), along with Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), introduced the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021 today to aid Americans who are being inundated with robocalls.

Their bipartisan legislation would double the penalties for illegal caller-ID “spoofing,” a tactic scammers often use to trick victims into answering their phone calls.  By disguising their true identity, scammers can masquerade as government officials or well-known businesses and convince consumers to share their personal and financial information.

The introduction of the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act coincides with National “Slam the Scam” Day, an annual initiative that brings together federal, state, and local government agencies with nonprofits and the private sector to warn the public of government imposter phone scams. 

“Older Americans lose billions of dollars each year to an ever-growing array of financial exploitation schemes.  These scams vary in nature, from COVID-19 scams to government imposter scams to prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams,” said Senator Collins.  “We must work together to combat the criminals who use illegal robocalls and spoofing to steal Americans’ hard-earned savings and personal information.  By increasing penalties for spoofing violations, the bipartisan Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act would provide an additional tool in this fight.”

“Our bipartisan bill holds criminals, who deliberately target vulnerable communities in Arizona, accountable,” said Senator Sinema.

“For years, I have heard from Missourians who are fed up with being bombarded by robocalls at all hours of the day,” Senator Hawley said.  “Unfortunately, this scourge has been exacerbated during the pandemic by fraudsters preying on the financial fears of Americans in a time of need. Law enforcement must be given the tools to put a stop to these pests and ensure criminal scammers who take advantage of the elderly are met with the full force of the law. I am proud to join this important piece of bipartisan legislation that will increase penalties for the criminals behind these invasive robocalls.”

“The millions of robocalls that Michiganders receive are not just annoying, but in many cases are outright scams. Unfortunately, scammers are using ever-sophisticated scams to better ensure their robocalls are answered,” said Senator Peters. “I’m pleased to introduce this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to crack down on these robocalls and increase penalties for illegal spoofing.”

“Spoofing” of caller-IDs is commonly used by criminal robocallers to mask their true identity.  Con artists use this technique to boost their credibility and fool victims by making it appear as though they are calling from the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the local police department, or another legitimate source.  The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to new phone, text, and email scams that seek to trick or frighten consumers into sharing personal information and financial details.

In 2010, Congress passed the Truth in Caller ID Act, which prohibits the use of misleading or inaccurate caller-ID information to intentionally defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.  The use of this deceptive tactic has exploded since then, however, underscoring the need for stronger deterrent measures.

The bipartisan Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act would double the penalties for illegal spoofing under existing law, increasing the fine per violation from $10,000 to $20,000 and increasing the maximum fine from $1 million to $2 million. 

Consumers can help protect themselves from fraud by:

Hanging up on suspicious calls from “government officials” calling about a problem;

Never making payments with gift cards, wire transfers, or by mailing cash;

Reporting Social Security scams to www.OIG.SSA.gov; and

Reporting other scams to www.reportfraud.ftc.gov.

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