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Senate passes bill to stop robocalls

The Traced Act, which gives law enforcement, regulators and phone companies more tools to go after illegal robocallers, now heads to the president's desk for signing.

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Sens. John Thune (left) and Ed Markey helped lead the Traced Act through the US Senate. The bill was passed today and now heads to President Trump for signing.  

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The US Senate has passed a bill designed to help curb annoying robocalls, moving the legislation to President Donald Trump for signing. The House of Representatives passed the Traced Act earlier this month. 

The bipartisan bill, which was led in the Senate by Sens. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, and Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, gives government agencies and law enforcement more tools to go after individuals and companies who break telephone consumer-protection laws. It also pushes phone companies to be more proactive in blocking suspicious calls. 

"This bill represents a unique legislative effort that is not only bipartisan at its core, but it's nearly unanimously supported in Congress," Thune said in a statement. "Most importantly, this is a significant win for consumers in every corner of the country, and it finally and officially puts illegal robocallers on notice"

Specifically the Traced Act increases penalties for bad actors knowingly initiating illegal robocalls. It requires phone companies to authenticate calls to determine if the number calling you is real. If a call can't be authenticated, phone companies have to alert customers and allow them to block calls. The act gives regulators like the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission more time to go after scammers and to penalize them more aggressively. And it pushes the US Department of Justice to go after illegal robocallers. 

The bill comes as complaints about robocalls keep growing. More than 49 billion robocalls have been made in the US so far this year, according to YouMail. Many of these calls are from scammers, and they're clogging phone systems. Hospitals have reported a huge increase of spam robocalls, which experts say hampers communications and patient treatment. 

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