H.R. 1110: PHONE Act of 2009

H.R. 1110

PHONE Act of 2009

Date
December 15, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 1110 is being considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage.  The legislation was introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) on February 23, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1110 would amend the federal criminal code to:

  • Impose a fine, a five-year prison term, or both on anyone who uses or provides, in interstate or foreign commerce, false caller ID information with intent to wrongfully obtain anything of value; and
  • Impose a fine, a one-year prison term, or both on anyone who provides caller ID information with the intent to deceive the recipient of the call about the identify of the caller.

The bill would prohibit attempts or conspiracies to commit these acts.  H.R. 1110 specifically exempts authorized activities of a U.S. law enforcement agency or intelligence agency, and would allow for the criminal forfeiture of any equipment, software, or other technology used to commit violations.

The bill expands the definition of "telephone call" to mean a call made or received using any real time voice communications service, regardless of the technology or network used.

H.R. 1110 establishes fraud crimes related to electronic mail and caller ID spoofing as predicates for money laundering prosecutions.

Background

According to the Committee Report, in recent years, spoofing has become more commonplace, leading to increased security vulnerabilities and identity theft.  Spoofing involves the use of a false caller ID to hide the caller's true identity in order to commit fraud or some other abusive act.  Recently, spoofing technology has become readily available, either through the purchase of Internet telephone equipment or through Web sites specifically set up to spoof.  For example, Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) equipment can easily be configured to populate the caller ID field with information of the user's choosing.

Since caller ID spoofing can make a call appear to come from any phone number, it has the ability to cause damaged credit and financial ruin.  Call recipients sometimes divulge personal and private information to the spoofer, under the mistaken belief that it is a legitimate call.

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1110 would have no significant cost to the federal government.  Enacting the bill could affect direct spending and revenues, but any such effects would not be significant.

Because those prosecuted and convicted under H.R. 1110 could be subject to criminal fines, the federal government might collect additional amounts if the legislation is enacted.  Criminal fines are recorded as revenues, deposited in the Crime Victims Fund, and later spent.  CBO estimates that any additional revenues and direct spending would not be significant because of the small number of cases likely to be affected.  Persons prosecuted and convicted under the bill also could be subject to the seizure of certain assets by the federal government.  Proceeds from the sale of such assets would be deposited into the Assets Forfeiture Fund and spent from that fund, mostly in the same year.  Thus, enacting H.R. 1110 could increase both revenues deposited into the fund and direct spending from the fund.  However, CBO estimates that any increase in revenues or spending would be negligible.