In recent months, a number of websites have popped up selling consumer phone records for as little as $100-dollars. Experts say that the records are usually obtained by individuals who pose fraudulently as customers and request their records.
“I think it’s truly reprehensible that unscrupulous marketers have been obtaining and selling the confidential, personal phone billing records of Americans. This legislation will protect innocent people and ensure that the perpetrators of this fraudulent and criminal activity are prosecuted. We must not allow this deceitful and disturbing practice to continue,” said Allen.
The Protecting Consumer Phone Records Act outlaws acquiring, selling or soliciting someone else’s phone records without their consent. It also specifically outlaws the fraudulent misrepresentation that a person has given authorization to obtain their phone records, often referred to as “pretexting.”
“Given the growing problem of pretexting, it is time for Congress to act to protect consumers. Senator Inouye and I plan to bring this bill before our Committee next week for mark-up,” said Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens. “This bill empowers the FTC and FCC to punish those who lie to obtain private phone records.”
The legislation increases the penalties on bad actors and provides the Federal Communications, the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General with strengthened enforcement authority. To further boost enforcement, it would also allow phone companies the ability to take legal action against data brokers or others who are illegally acquiring phone records to boost enforcement.
“By passing this bill, we will send a clear message to the conniving thieves looking to make a quick buck through this fraudulent and deceptive behavior: you will be punished,” Allen added.
The legislation also requires phone companies to certify annually that they are in compliance with confidentiality procedures. Phone companies would be hit with a $30,000 penalty for any violation in which they do not sufficiently protect their subscriber’s phone records.
“Unfortunately, there are some marketers who have no respect for people’s privacy and no respect for the rules,” said co-sponsor, Senator Jim Talent (R-MO). “Our legislation will protect consumers and punish criminals seeking to profit from phone record theft.”
In addition to Senators Stevens, Inouye and Talent, the bill was also co-sponsored by Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT), John Warner (R-VA), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Bill Nelson (D-FL), David Vitter (R-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Mel Martinez (R-FL) and John Thune (R-SD).