U.S. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) added his voice and vote of support to congressional legislation that would reduce spam calls and the threat posed by scammers to unsuspecting consumers.
He told The Times-Gazette this week that he voted for the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act back in July, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 429-3.
The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED) is the reconciled version of these two bills, passing the senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 97-1 two months earlier.
“My wife had no student loans and completed college on scholarships,” he said. “Yet she gets calls every day about paying back her student loans, and my mother gets fake calls all the time from people claiming to be from Duke Energy and she just hangs up.”
Wenstrup said the aim of the TRACED Act is to combat spam calls, noting that the bill would reduce them by directing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crack down on spoofing, increasing FCC fines on perpetrators, extending the statute of limitations for the FCC to initiate cases against scammers, and requiring the telecommunications industry to implement authentication technology within 18 months at no cost to consumers, allowing them to know where calls are coming from, thus making it easier to block unwanted ones.
The measure would build upon a recent FCC move to let phone companies block unwanted robocalls by default, and would require carriers to make that service free to subscribers.
Wenstrup said it would also target what is called the “one ring scam,” where scammers dial from a fake number and let the phone ring one time in hopes of luring a consumer to call back.
The end result, he said, is a hefty fee that shows up on the next month’s phone statement since the number they dialed is often to a foreign country.
He said he receives many complaints from constituents in his Washington, D.C., Peebles and suburban Cincinnati offices, and many of them point to one thing.
“They tell me if I could only do one thing for them, get rid of the robocalls,” Wenstrup said. “These spammers have gotten more clever over the years in that you’ll see your area code and the first three numbers of your personal cell so you’ll be more apt to pick up.”
Another deceptive method spammers use, he said, is when the spammer hacks a personal contact list and then uses the name and number of a familiar person to get the consumer on the phone.
As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, Wenstrup hosted a Fraud Protection Forum earlier this year to share fraud assistance services and resources to avoid common scams that often originate from spam calls.
“We wanted to inform constituents and consumers of the types of things that are taking place that are scamming people, in many cases seniors,” he said. “So we had representatives from various agencies that track these abuses and these scams, so they could present them and give people an idea of what to look out for.”
As a U.S. Army Reserve officer, Wenstrup said military policy on using caution is paramount in terms of what emails could be opened and what phone calls could and shouldn’t be answered. He felt that that protocol could be applied to those he represents as well.
He said the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act seeks to eliminate questionable and fraudulent calls.
“Unfortunately, it’s a constant game because people always find a way to use technology in some bad way,” Wenstrup said. “Good intents sometimes get taken for harm, I don’t think the Wright brothers were thinking ‘hey, we could drop bombs from this thing’ once they invented and flew the airplane.”
He said the bill is now in the senate where it is awaiting final passage by unanimous consent before being sent to President Trump for his signature.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.