‘This is an invasion of people’s privacies:’ Bipartisan legislation seeks to silence robocalls

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin lawmakers want to cut back on robocalls. The robotic voices are universally unwelcome, with all of us hoping one day they will be silenced. Lawmakers say they're working on it.

Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) and Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) introduced bipartisan legislation, Assembly Bill 147 and Senate Bill 132, that would make displaying a false number, or "spoofing," illegal in Wisconsin.

"This is an acute marketing scheme. This is an invasion of people's privacies," Sen. Kooyenga said.

"Most of the calls that come to my phone have a 414 or 262 number, so you think it's somebody from your area," Rep. Sanfelippo said.

Many times, the fraudster is overseas.

The new bill would also give telephone carriers the power to block spam calls before they reach your phone.

"Is it the magic bullet? Are you never going to receive these phone calls anymore? Probably not, but at least it's something that gives law enforcement and other regulators the power to hammer on bad actors," Kooyenga said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has thrown his support behind the bill.

"Fraudulent calls and telemarketing calls were the number one consumer complaint in Wisconsin last year," Kaul said.

Kaul is among 54 attorneys general who signed a letter urging U.S. Senators to pass the "Traced Act."

"It would require service providers to have a process in place that blocks spoofing. It would also increase the penalties in certain circumstances for companies that broke the law,"Kaul said.

Alex Quilici, the CEO of robocall blocking company YouMail, said these legislative efforts won't cut down on calls until the problem is cut off at the source.

"It's a big problem that's going to require a big solution from a lot of different folks," Quilici said. " I don't need to necessarily spoof a number to make lots of robocalls. I can get a thousand different phone numbers and make a thousand calls on each one and I've made a million calls. It will help, but it's not gonna solve the problem."

There are still big challenges to eliminating robocalls. The FCC needs cooperation from foreign governments. It needs more providers to participate in trace back efforts. In addition, the statute of limitations for many telemarketing violations is one year, which is not enough time to investigate complex cases.

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