09.22.06

As Hewlett Packard Investigation Unfolds, Schumer Blasts Senate Republicans For Blocking Bipartisan Bill Criminalizing Sale Of Cell Phone Call Logs

With Investigation into the Use of Pretexting at HP Ongoing, Schumers Legislation Would Criminalize Growing Practice That Puts Individuals Cell Phone Records in the Hands of Criminals Bill Already Passed House 409-0Senator: No Laws Currently On The Books Banning This Practice

Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer criticized Senate Republicans for refusing to pass by unanimous consent his comprehensive legislation that would criminalize the practice, also known as pretexting, of both stealing and selling cell phone, landline and voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) records and renewed his call on Majority Leader Bill Frist to immediately bring to the floor. Hewlett Packards outgoing Chairwoman Patricia Dunn is currently accused of contracting with a company that used pretexting to obtain cell phone records of other board members and journalists. The bipartisan Telephone Records and Privacy Protection (TRAPP) Act (S. 2178), introduced by Schumer in January along with Senators Arlen Specter (RPA) and Bill Nelson (DFL), was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously back in March, but the bill has stalled in the full Senate. Schumer sought to move the identical House version of the bill through the Senate yesterday.

Stealing someones private phone records is absolutely a criminal act and the fact that it cant be prosecuted as one has got to change, Schumer said. With the HP case still unfolding, it is unfortunate that Senate Republicans chose to stand in the way of ending this malicious practice and preventing it from touching more and more Americans. Stealing a persons phone log can lead to serious personal, financial, and safety issues for just about any American. Pretexting companies are popping up across the country and we need to give law enforcement the tools to track these criminals down and put them out of business.

The TRAPP Act will make it a federal offense, punishable as a felony, to obtain customer information from a telephone service provider by false pretenses or access a customer account on the Internet to obtain billing information without authorization. The bill also makes it a crime for phone company employees to sell customer information without proper authorization. The bill applies to cell, landline, and (VOIP) phone records. An identical version of Schumers legislation passed the House 4090.

The Senate Democratic leadership signaled its approval of the legislation, however, Republicans have not agreed to pass the measure by unanimous consent, a common procedure for passing noncontroversial legislation quickly. Because the House has already passed the same legislation, if the Senate passed the bill, it could be sent quickly to the President for his signature without need for a conference committee.

Under Schumers bill, it will be a violation of federal law to obtain someones phone records by 1. Making false or fraudulent statements or representations to an employee of a telephone service provider; 2. Making such statements to a customer of a telephone service provider; 3. Accessing a customer account on the Internet without the customers authorization; 4. Providing false documentation to a telephone service provider knowing that the document is false.

Cell phone call logs are sought out for a variety of reasons. For years phone records gave been used by law enforcement and private detectives, but with the internet, gaining access to that information has gotten much easier. Websites like www.cellphonerecords.org offer the service online, and with little regulation it is nearly impossible to stop.

Experts say that these records can be made available through three techniques. The first is having someone that works for one of the phone companies who sells the data. Though strict rules inside most of the phone companies make this practice risky, officials say that finding someone with access to the information desired is not that difficult. The second technique is pretexting where a data broker or the like pretends to be the owner of the phone. In doing so, they convince the cell phone companys employees to release the data to them.

Though the problem is all too common, federal law is too narrow to include this type of crime. Pretexting for financial data is illegal, but its does not include phone records.

We should protect your phone information and call logs the same way we protect your financial information or even medical records. Very personal information can be gleaned from our telephone records and criminals who steal this information should be punished, Schumer concluded.



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