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Senators target illegal robocalls with steeper fines, call-blocking tech

A new bill would impose higher penalties and give the FCC more authority to catch illegal robocallers.

Man screaming into mobile phone

Robocalls are annoying. 

Getty Images

US lawmakers are getting serious about stopping illegal scam calls.

Republican Sen. John Thune from South Dakota and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey from Massachusetts on Friday introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which will increase penalties; promote call-authentication and call-blocking technology; and give regulators more time to find scammers.

The bill would broaden the authority of the Federal Communications Commission and extend its window for taking action to three years after a robocall is placed, according to Markey's release. The TRACED Act would also bring federal agencies and state attorneys general together to help crack down on robocallers.

The FCC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Thune's and Markey's offices didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

US regulators have been getting tough with illegal robocalls. Earlier this month, the FCC sent letters to the heads of AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Google and others, asking them to adopt a call-authentication system that would combat illegal caller ID spoofing. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asked the companies to have the system in place no later than next year.

In September, the FCC fined robocaller Philip Roesel and his companies more than $82 million for illegal caller ID spoofing. Roesel used those companies to market health insurance and generate leads for insurance products he sold.

In May, the FCC levied a $120 million fine against Adrian Abramovich, who allegedly made nearly 100 million robocalls to sell "exclusive" vacation deals.

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