• State lawmaker wants to significantly boost fine for robocalls

    By: Leah Jordan

    Updated:

    It’s a complaint the FOX13 Investigates team receives often: time consuming and unwelcome robocalls. 

    New this week, a Tennessee bill was filed that would make the penalty a lot pricier for robocallers.

    It’s a problem that effects countless people. According to the Robocall Index, there were 5.2 billion robocalls placed across the United States in January 2019 alone. 

    Memphis callers received roughly 14 percent more robocalls in January than in December 

    In January, robocallers placed 47.9 million calls to Memphis cell phones. That’s 1.5 million per day, at an average of 42.3 calls per person.

    Now, one Tennessee lawmaker is saying enough is enough. Senator Joey Hensley officially filed SB 0754 on Feb. 5. 

    “It deals with people that knowingly cause caller ID services to be inaccurate and placing calls that are not accurate for the caller ID information,” Hensley said.

    His proposed bill would fine callers $25,000 per violation instead of $10,000, and each call would be a separate violation. 

    “We all hear from our constituents that get numerous, annoying calls daily, and the caller ID number is a familiar or local number,” Hensley said. “The call is actually coming from out of state, or who knows where,” he said. 

    FOX13 Investigates spoke to several people in the community about the issue -- one woman said she got rid of her cell phone altogether because she was so tired of the calls.

    Some people said they block all their random number calls, but we also heard from people who said they have to answer all calls due to their lines of work. 

    Hensley said he falls under the latter category and feels obligated to answer all random, local calls – and finds the robocalls to be a bigger issue now than ever before. 

    FOX13 asked how difficult it is to track the people behind these calls down.

    “It is difficult to track them all down. They move around as well. It is a difficult issue, but we hope this bill is a starting point at least,” Hensley said. 

    FOX13 will continue tracking the bill’s progress as it moves through the committee, house, and senate. 

    Hensley told FOX13’s Leah Jordan he doesn’t foresee much opposition, besides perhaps from the cell phone carriers themselves.

    In the meantime, if you’re looking for a robocall blocking service, here’s how the big four wireless carriers stack up: 

    • AT&T has a product called Call Protect – it’s free. 
    • Sprint has premium caller ID, which rings in at $2.99 a month.
    • T-Mobile offers several options – Scam ID and Scam Block are both free, and Name ID is $4 a month.
    • Verizon has Enhanced Caller Name ID – which will be free beginning in March.

    Free third-party apps include Nomorobo, Youmail, and Hiya.

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