Bill in House could allow warrantless cell phone searches if it passes.

 The U.S. Congress is one step closer to helping curb the number of robocalls Americans receive. 

 On Wednesday, July 24, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 429 to 3.

 Independent Justin Amash, (Michigan, Dist. 3), Republican Andy Biggs, (Arizona, Dist. 5) and Republican Thomas Massie, (Kentucky, Dist. 4) cast the dissenting votes.

 This bill would create more consumer protections for authorized calls and give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) more tools to stop robocalls. This includes requiring incoming calls to have authentic caller identification before coming to the customers, as well as requiring telephone carriers to confirm that calls are from a verified caller.

 Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus who cosponsored the bill, said, “We know the amount of robocalls Americans receive have increased over the years and these calls are scamming people out of their hard-earned money. I’m proud that both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives came together to act to protect Michiganders and stop these calls. This bipartisan bill puts consumers first so that when people answer their phone, they don’t have to worry someone is trying to cheat them.”

 According to robocallindex.com, Michiganders received approximately 1.2 billion robocalls in 2018. Already in 2019, residents in this state have received 784 million. Americans have lost an estimated $10.5 billion to robocall scams this year, according to Truecaller, a communications website. 

 Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) also cosponsored the bill. 

 “Michiganders are sick and tired of getting robocalls, and they’re even more fed up with being scammed by these companies,” Slotkin said in a press release. “I’m thrilled that today we have passed a bipartisan bill I have co-sponsored to directly respond to this daily, frustrating, and indeed serious problem our constituents are facing. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act not only helps prevent folks from receiving irritating robocalls, but cracks down on companies who have preyed on and taken billions of dollars from consumers.”

 The bill makes an exception for calls made on equipment that requires substantial human intervention. The Act would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and calls for more consumer protections for specified exemptions, such as student debt collectors. 

 The FCC would have to specifically state which parties can make the calls, who can be called, the purposes for which calls can be made, the number of calls allowed for exemptions and an option for consumers to opt out of receiving the calls.

 A year after the Act would go into effect, the FCC would require telephone service providers to authenticate the source of calls. The service would be free for consumers. The FCC would be required to create a nationwide database of numbers from persons that may not have consented to being called. Robocallers would be required to use it. People can revoke their previous consent to being called at any time.

 The FCC would be required to submit annual reports to Congress detailing the progression in stopping robocalls. Information provided must include the following: complaints alleging violations of this act; complaints alleging that a call transmitted misleading or inaccurate caller identification information; numbers of citations issued; amount of criminal fines collected and more. The bill also establishes a four-year limit statute of limitations on crimes mentioned in the act, extended from the current one-year limit.

Apps to stop robocalls

 Nomorobo, as in “no more robo-calls,” is a monthly subscription service that blocks automated scam or telemarketing phone calls. It allows useful notices, such as school closings and prescription reminders through, and obviously, regular phone calls. However, it’s still not able to block “neighbor spoofing” calls, which are scam calls that have your same area code for deception.

 Truecaller, for iOS and Android will tell you who’s behind that anonymous number with a community-based spam list from more than 250 million users. It can also block spam calls.

 Hiya Caller ID & Block, for both major operating systems, allows users to block calls, blacklist unwanted numbers and text messages, reverse phone search incoming calls and more.

 AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have all developed free robocall-blocking apps. Search for them on your device.

Source: USAToday

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