Signed into national law at the end of 2019, the TRACED Act gives consumers greater protection from unwanted solicitations by phone and text message. It also gives law enforcement agencies greater capabilities to pursue and punish those who violate the rules regarding robocalling.

For for-profit businesses, an understanding of the TRACED Act is critical if you want to protect your organization from potentially hefty fines and other ramifications of violating its provisions. This guide will break down the terminology you need to know and the steps companies are taking to comply with the regulations outlined in the legislation.

Terms to Know 

To fully understand the TRACED Act, it helps to know these terms.

Spoof calls

In a spoof call, also called caller ID spoofing, a caller intentionally transmits false information to the recipient’s caller ID to mask their identity. Scammers out to steal money often use what’s known as “neighbor spoofing,” where the number that appears on the caller ID is from the recipient’s local area code. This makes it more likely the recipient will assume it’s someone they know and answer. Sometimes the caller may spoof a number from an existing company or a government agency to make their call appear legitimate. 

Spoofing is almost always illegal, except in certain circumstances. One such example would be a doctor calling a patient from her personal cell phone, but displaying the practice’s office number on the caller ID instead. In this case, it’s not illegal because the doctor isn’t misrepresenting her identity and she has the right to use the number that’s being displayed.

Automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS)

An automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS), also called an autodialer, is equipment that can store a series of numbers to be called or produce them using a random number generator, then dial those numbers. According to a Supreme Court ruling, the ability to produce random numbers to be dialed rather than merely storing numbers from a list or database is a key differentiator of automatic telephone dialing systems. Your phone, for example, stores the numbers of your friends and family, but it isn’t an ATDS. Having a solid understanding of what is and isn’t an ATDS will help you stay on the right side of the law when placing marketing calls. 


A robocall uses an ATDS to deliver a pre-recorded message. Robocalls are most frequently associated with telemarketers and political campaigns, but they can also be used to spread emergency notifications and public service announcements from local municipalities. 

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) 

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted by Congress in 1991 and is the precursor to the TRACED Act. It protected consumers from phone solicitations, namely the use of ATDSs and prerecorded messages for marketing purposes. 

The TCPA has been updated through the years to cover newer communications technology like text messaging. Under the most recent guidelines, businesses must have express consent from consumers before robocalling them and must provide an automated opt-out option during each interaction. 

What is the TRACED Act? 

TRACED stands for Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence. It builds upon the foundation of the TCPA, with new and expanded directives to address the massive surge of robocalls and spoofed calls happening on smartphones. 

The TRACED Act gives Congress, the FCC, and law enforcement expanded tools to fight robocalls, which are the top complaint the FCC receives every year. The FCC and other agencies will implement the TRACED Act in pieces over the course of several years. It’s a complex piece of legislation, but it revolves around two major initiatives.

First, the TRACED Act compels voice service providers to develop and implement authentication technologies to better identify when a call is a scam and alert consumers to it. This is known as the STIR/SHAKEN framework. It’s the technical process by which phone companies ensure that the person calling is who they say they are. 

Second, the TRACED Act establishes the framework for an industry “traceback” program to figure out where spam calls are coming from. Previously, traceback efforts were conducted by various private parties with no overarching system for coordinating their efforts. Under the traceback framework, a single, neutral, third-party consortium will oversee and coordinate all privately-led traceback efforts to uncover the true origin of illegal robocalls. The consortium will be reviewed by the FCC every year. 

Companies or individuals who are found to have intentionally violated the TRACED Act could face fines of up to $10,000 per intentional robocall. If you’re dialing hundreds or thousands of calls an hour, those fines could quickly become insurmountable. Thus, it’s imperative that if you place calls for business purposes, you’re taking the necessary steps to comply with regulations and protect yourself from unintended consequences. 

Implementations of the TRACED Act 

The TRACED Act contains a lot of moving parts and many of the components are still in the process of being implemented. Here are the major protections that either already exist or will soon.

Caller ID authentication 

Under the TRACED Act, phone companies where calls originate and terminate–like mobile service providers–must verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a call matches the caller’s real number. This leads to more accurate call labeling and helps providers determine whether the call should be blocked before it reaches the recipient, protecting more would-be scam victims. Additionally, it helps law enforcement identify scammers more easily. 

Consumer protection tools 

Call blocking is another consumer protection tool that piggy-backs off of caller ID authentication. Service providers can automatically block calls believed to be from spoofed numbers, provided that they immediately let the recipient know a call has been blocked and produce a list of blocked numbers upon request. 

Another consumer protection applies to one-ring scams. In these setups, the phone rings a single time before the call terminates, prompting the consumer to call back. Though the number appears to be from the U.S., it actually leads to an overseas party, causing the consumer to rack up exorbitant fees that the scammer gets a portion of. The FCC is cracking down on such scams as part of the TRACED Act. 

Finally, consumer protections went into place to protect people from getting unwanted calls intended for someone else, like the person who had the phone number before them. The FCC is in the process of establishing a Reassigned Numbers Database that callers can check to determine whether a number they’re calling has been reassigned. 

Enforcement tools 

Finally, the TRACED Act gives teeth to law enforcement’s efforts to punish illegal robocallers. Under the legislation, the FCC can impose a penalty for robocall violations without first issuing a citation and can hit scammers who intentionally continue to make robocalls with additional penalties. It also extends the statute of limitations for spoofing and robocall violations to four years, which gives authorities greater leeway in bringing more scammers to justice. 


What is the TRACED Act?

The TRACED Act gives Congress, the FCC, and law enforcement expanded tools to fight robocalls, which are the top complaint the FCC receives every year. The FCC and other agencies will implement the TRACED Act in pieces over the course of several years. It’s a complex piece of legislation, but it revolves around two major initiatives.

What does TRACED act stand for?

TRACED stands for Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence.