Lawmakers, consumer advocates push to block pesky 'robocalls'

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- There's a plan on Capitol Hill to curb those annoying automated calls from telemarketers and scammers - known as robocalls. Washington Correspondent Alana Austin reports on what lawmakers are doing to address this problem, and finds even Senators deal with these irritating calls.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) pulled out his phone during a Thursday Senate commerce subcommittee meeting, playing a recent recording of a scammer pestering his U.S. Senate office.

Over the speakers, a staffer could be heard explaining, "just so you know, you just called the United States Senate line and this is being recorded." The person on the other line reacted, "Oh! Oh!" before Gardner cut off the speakers, explaining the rest would not be appropriate to play in a public setting.

"In March of this year, YouMail estimates that Coloradans received a whopping 73.6 million robocalls," said Gardner. "I received a letter from a constituent in Loveland who emailed me at 11 a.m. one day to let me know he had already 11 robocalls that morning."

It's a modern headache businesses, consumers, and apparently, even lawmakers on Capitol Hill face. Now there's a coalition making a forceful push to stop robocalls.

Top Senator John Thune (R-SD) - who led the panel Thursday - is championing a bill called the TRACED Act. The bill hopes to crack down on these harassing, illegal calls and empower law enforcement to go after the bad guys.

"The scam artists who aren't deterred by fines or financial penalties, the one thing that gets their attention is the prospect of going to jail," said Sen. Thune.

The TRACED Act offers a framework for law enforcement, federal agencies and technology leaders to target robocallers. Thune also hopes the bill will prevent spoofing, which is when callers use a fake and familiar-looking caller ID in an effort to trick you into answering your phone.

"They are incredibly annoying if nothing else but you know they're more dangerous than that," said Thune.

Thune is concerned people will stop picking up the phone, even when it's an important call - like an automated message from your doctor or bank. Thursday's hearing senior counsel of the National Consumer Law Center, Margot Saunders, who backs efforts to ensure both legitimate businesses and spammers stop violating the Do Not Call List.

"There's a lot of scam calls that are annoying to consumers. But there's also a lot of non-scam telemarketing calls and debt collection calls. All of these calls are very annoying," said Saunders.

Thune's bill is moving forward on Capitol Hill. Leaders on both sides seem optimistic it will grant some relief from the robocalls.

You have options for fighting back against these calls. Senator Thune's office says you can report illegal robocalls to the feds at You can also submit a complaint to the FCC. Or, you can reach out to your state attorney general consumer protection office.

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