Asbury Park Press

Robocallers Targeted For Punishment Under Pallone Bill, Which Could Soon Get Vote

Asbury Park Press — July 9, 2019

By Michael L. Diamond

SOUTH AMBOY — A weapon to tackle the scourge of robocallers, and hopefully make you comfortable enough to answer the telephone again in your own home, is making its way through Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

A bipartisan bill, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, is being readied for a vote before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A similar bill already has been passed by the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Frank Pallone talks about legislation to crack down on robocalls during a press conference at TelTech, a tech company that has an app called RoboKiller, in South Amboy, NJ Tuesday June 19, 2018. (Photo: Tanya Breen)

"It is a threat. So many people say, 'I don't answer the phone,'" said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the bill's sponsor. "They don't answer it at all, even if their wife is calling. They are afraid that it isn't their wife."

Robocalls are no longer just a nuisance. In May, consumers received an estimated 20 million robocalls in the state's 732 area code alone, said Pallone, the committee's chairman.

"People really see it as a threat to the phone system, a threat to the public safety, a threat to health care," said Pallone during a press conference at Teltech, the South Amboy developer of RoboKiller, a smartphone app that blocks robocalls. "It is completely out of hand."

Learn more about Robokiller in the video at the top of this story and check out the photos below from a previous Pallone visit to the app maker. Read more stories about how to protect yourself from fraud on our Press on Your Side page, and please consider supporting such journalism by buying a digital subscription to APP.com.

Pallone said his bill will strengthen the Federal Communications Commission's ability to get tough with robocallers. Among other things it:

Current regulations don't do the job of protecting consumers, said Beverly Brown Ruggia, financial justice organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action.

"The problem has reached epidemic proportions," Ruggia said. "The companies that violate existing regulations and are responsible for billions of illegal calls are violating our privacy and they cost the public time and money.

"We waste time answering or trying to decipher who these calls are from, or we simply do not answer the phone," she said.

More: Robocalls that spoofed caller ID sunk by FTC

More: Student debt relief phone calls: Playing nice or simply scams?

On Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed adoption of new rules that ban malicious caller ID spoofing of text messages and international calls.

"Scammers often robocall us from overseas, and when they do, they typically spoof their numbers to try and trick consumers," Pai said in a statement. "Call center fraudsters often pretend to be calling from trusted organizations and use pressure tactics to steal from Americans."

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