May 8th, 2019 –City Hall – At Wednesday’s Stated Meeting, Council Member Paul A. Vallone introduced a resolution calling on both Congress and the New York State Legislature to pass the Federal TRACED Act and New York State legislation S.3297A/A.675, respectively. These bills would establish measures to protect consumers and combat harassing robocalls, which have rapidly increased in frequency in New York City and nationwide in recent years.
Over 5.2 billion robocalls were placed throughout the United States in March 2019, and nearly half of these calls were scams, according to YouMail’s Robocall Index. Many of these calls are generated through phone numbers from areas such as the Virgin Islands and Lithuania and have become a relentless nuisance for thousands of people throughout New York City. Robocalls have also become more deceptive in recent years with callers using the “spoofing” method, employing local numbers to deceive the recipient.
The TRACED Act would deter robocalls by imposing forfeiture penalties on parties that commit criminal robocall violations and require voice service providers to implement a call authentication framework. The New York State legislation would protect consumers by (1) banning unsolicited robocalls, (2) empowering the state attorney general to enforce robocall violations, while also allowing for civil penalties, (3) authorizing New Yorkers to sue robocallers, and (4) requiring telephone providers to offer consumers free technology to block robocalls.
On May 3rd, the Federal Communications Commission issued a consumer warning about “one ring” scam calls, in which scammers place one ring phone calls repeatedly in the hope the consumer calls back and runs up a toll that is largely paid to the scammer. News reports have indicated widespread overnight calling in New York State and Arizona. In response, the FCC advised consumers not to call back and to file a complaint with the agency.
“The proliferation of robocalls presents a real threat to the privacy and quality of life of New Yorkers, and telling us to just ignore these invasive phone calls is an unacceptable response,” said Council Member Vallone. “We cannot sit idle while telecommunication companies fail to offer call mitigation technology to their customers. Passing these pieces of legislation would give residents much needed relief from this form of harassment, which has become a daily occurrence for so many. I urge our federal and state representatives to take action on this issue, and I will continue looking for ways to combat this intrusive trend on a City level.”
Council Member Vallone is working with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer to determine which features of the federal TRACED Act could be replicated on the City level and will explore the potential for additional privacy legislation.