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Change to Pa. wiretap law would allow consumers targeted by telemarketing scams to record calls

By: - September 26, 2023 4:42 pm

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People who think they’re being targeted by telemarketing scams would be able to legally record calls under an amendment to the Pennsylvania law that allows police and prosecutors to tap telephones.

The addition to the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act would permit potential victims of telephone scams to fight back by recording the calls for use by authorities in investigating such schemes. 

“This will level the playing field and give our citizens an opportunity to also record the tele-scammer to provide evidence to law enforcement officials,” state Rep. Tim Bonner (R-Mercer) said.

The Federal Trade Commission reported consumers lost about $8.8 billion to fraud of all types in 2022. Another study commissioned by a caller ID and call blocking software company put the amount lost to scam calls at an astounding $40 billion.

The legislation was unanimously approved on Tuesday in the state House as an amendment to the Wiretap Act, which is due to expire at the end of 2023. 

The Wiretap Act requires law enforcement officials to apply to a judge with evidence to obtain a warrant to secretly intercept phone calls and other communications. It applies to land lines, cellphones and other forms of telecommunication. Others may record calls only if all participants consent.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said a companion bill in the state Senate to also extend the Wiretap Act provides important protections to Pennsylvanians and allows police to use body cameras.

In addition to extending the Wiretap Act, House Bill 1278 allows parole officers and investigators working for the state Department of Corrections to record conversations.

Rep. Craig Williams (R-Delaware) noted that while telephone scams often target senior citizens, people of any age can be victims. 

Williams said his son inadvertently downloaded malware on his computer that threatened to destroy his data and instructed him to call for guidance on how to remove the virus. Williams said there was no legal way for him or his son to record the scammer on the other end of the line. 

“You have no recourse whatsoever to record that telephone call and provide evidence to law enforcement,” Williams said. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Pielli (D-Chester) must be put up for a vote for final approval before it goes to the Senate for consideration. 


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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.