New law lets government call your cell if you owe them money

Posted at 6:48 PM, Nov 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-05 18:48:08-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Rhonda Lee got rid of her landline phone years ago because the constant robocalls became a nuisance.

"[I] haven't had one for two or three years now, haven't missed a phone call that was important once," Lee said.

But the peace and quiet from robocalls may soon be ending, as a new federal law allows the government to call cell numbers if you owe them money.

It applies to people who have outstanding debt with federal student loans, taxes or even some mortgages. The change was buried in the new budget deal President Barack Obama signed last week.

"I wouldn't appreciate it if the federal government called my cell phone, but I also wouldn't pick up if i didn't know the number," Miranda Grimley, a Richmonder with federal student loans, said.

The change appears to be supported by the Department of Education, who earlier this year released saying recent college students "move frequently" and that they are "no longer having landline numbers."

It is estimated $120 million can be collected over ten years with the change, but some US Senators are crying foul.

While no Virginia Senator has yet signed on, a bill has been proposed that would eliminate the federal governments newfound power.

The Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls Act, or HANGUP, has been proposed. Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon told CBS 6, “Congress delivered an early present to debt collectors: a new way to harass people through robocalls."