Sen. John Thune and Sen. Ed Markey are co-authors of the TRACED Act
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)

Democrats and Republicans can agree on at least one thing: The spam robocall situation has gotten entirely out of hand.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat, and Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, introduced a bill on Friday that aims to ramp up the penalties on illegal robocalls—and stop them from reaching your phone in the first place.

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The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, raises the penalty for robocalls from $1,500 per call to up to $10,000 per call, and allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on illegal robocalls up to three years after the calls are placed, instead of a year.

The Act also aims to push the FCC to work along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other agencies to provide information to Congress about advancements in hindering robocall and prosecuting scammers.

Perhaps most importantly for us highly annoyed Americans, the bill would also force phone service providers to use call authentication that filters out illegitimate calls before they go through to consumers.

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Thune explained in a statement that current regulations are inadequate because were made for “lawful telemarketers” that mess up. “This enforcement regime is totally inadequate for scam artists and we need do more to separate enforcement of carelessness and other mistakes from more sinister actors,” Thune added.

One company that monitors robocalls and provides a blocking service, YouMail, estimates that 5.1 billion robocalls were made to U.S. phones just last month.

“As the scourge of spoofed calls and robocalls reaches epidemic levels, the bipartisan TRACED Act will provide every person with a phone much-needed relief,” Markey said in a statement. “It’s a simple formula: call authentication, blocking, and enforcement, and this bill achieves all three.”

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[U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation]