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New bill targets illegal robocallers

You recently visited a few websites to get online quotes on car insurance, and suddenly you become inundated with phone calls, text messages and voicemails. Almost nothing is more annoying than harassment from telemarketers and “robocallers” – those unfamiliar numbers that seem to have you on speed dial, often starting their spiel with a prerecorded message as soon as you pick up. You can’t even block these companies from calling you, because as soon as you block one number, the same company calls again from a different number. Is there anything you and other Missouri residents can do to stop the nightmare?

According to Consumer Reports, the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies are aware that robocalling is a national epidemic. Telemarketers must adhere to a strict set of rules or risk receiving fines. For example, they can’t call unreasonably early or late, and they must not call you if you’re registered on the national Do Not Call Registry. If you ask a company to stop calling, they must not keep doing so.

Unfortunately, many scammers and abusive telemarketing companies ignore these rules, knowing that many people don’t know their rights and won’t take the steps to fight back. Also, when a company spoofs numbers or hides its real number from your phone’s caller ID, it can be difficult to track it down and report it to the FCC.

Legislators have introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act. If the law, TRACED, passes, it offers numerous additional protections to consumers and penalties for unlawful robocalling, including the following:

  • Increasing fines for repeated violations by up to $30,000 for each day of the continuing violations
  • Making it easier for agencies to obtain civil forfeitures for intentional violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
  • Increasing the time the FCC can take action from one to three years after a robocalling violation

Every day, about 2,000 robocalls a second are made across the United States – more than 5 billion last October alone. Hopefully, this bill will be effective in reducing telemarketer harassment for you and others.

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