Trump signs off on new law that toughens the penalties for making robocalls
With a few strokes from his pen, on Monday President Donald Trump signed a piece of legislation called the TRACED Act. The law hikes the fine imposed on the person or organization behind a spam or robocall to as much as $10,000 for each call and does not require the government to issue a warning first. And to prevent consumers from being tricked by spammers manipulating the phone number seen on caller ID (a practice known as spoofing), the bill requires the carriers to authenticate the phone numbers of incoming calls.
The White House press secretary released a statement that said, "This historic legislation will provide American consumers with even greater protection against annoying unsolicited robocalls. American families deserve control over their communications, and this legislation will update our laws and regulations to stiffen penalties, increase transparency, and enhance government collaboration to stop unwanted solicitation." Half of the incoming calls to your smartphone in 2019 were likely to be spam calls seeking to separate you from your hard-earned money.
Pixel 4 users can have spam calls blocked automatically
Also pleased with the new law is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The Trump appointee said, "I applaud Congress for working in a bipartisan manner to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing. And I thank the President and Congress for the additional tools and flexibility that this law affords us. Specifically, I am glad that the agency now has a longer statute of limitations during which we can pursue scammers and I welcome the removal of a previously-required warning we had to give to unlawful robocallers before imposing tough penalties."
In 2018, Google gave Pixel users a new feature called call screen. When a call comes in from an unknown number, the Pixel user can press the Screen Call button and Google Assistant will answer the call and ask for the name of the party on the other line and the reason for the call. The conversation between the caller and Google Assistant is transcribed in real time on the Pixel display. And anytime the phone owner wants to join in the convo, tapping on an on-screen button will make it happen.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says that he applauds the bipartisan approach taken by Congress to combat robocallers
Earlier this month, Google released the first quarterly feature drop for the Pixels and the Pixel 4 received some new features designed to help block spam calls. An incoming call from a detected spam number will automatically be blocked by the phone. The user will never know that there was an incoming call. Meanwhile, the phone will ring if it receives an incoming call from a particular number for the first time, or a call from a private, hidden or faked number. Users will be able to customize their Pixel 4's response to each of those categories and also request that Google Assistant screen all calls before letting them go through. And audio recordings will be made of how Assistant answered calls that it screened although this feature might not be available in areas where recording phone calls is prohibited by law.
The best deterrence against spam calls is common sense. The Social Security Office is not going to call you about a problem with your social security number and ask you to tap in that number. Verizon isn't going to call you to tell you that your account is frozen unless you make a credit card payment immediately. And if you no longer have a car, your warranty obviously does not need to be extended. If you're not sure whether a particular call is legitimate, the best thing to do is to contact the company that the call claims to be from to find out whether it is genuine. Hopefully, with the bigger penalties prescribed by the new legislation, we will see fewer spam calls in the year ahead.