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Congress moves on new anti-robocall bill forcing providers to offer free call-blocking technology to consumers

FILE - Congress
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Half of Illinois’ congressional delegation is supporting legislation that supporters called the most aggressive push yet to stop unwanted phone calls. 

Introduced late last month, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act passed its first hurdle in the U.S. House of Representatives and is expected to see more votes before lawmakers leave town in August. 

It would streamline the communication between phone companies and the government when they report robocalls and give phone owners access to new robocall-blocking technology. 

Ohio Congressman Bob Latta said robocalls used to be a nuisance, but have become a real threat to people’s safety in recent years.

“We will improve consumer’s trust in our phone system and hinder bad actor’s ability to scam vulnerable citizens,” he said. 

The Federal Trade Commission fielded 2.26 million complaints about robocalls in 2012 alone. There were 26.3 billion unwanted robocalls made to U.S. mobile phones last year, according to estimates from robocall-blocking company Hiya.

The calls have proven dangerous in some situations. The Washington Post reported administrators at Tufts Medical Center in Boston registered more than 4,500 calls in as little as two hours last April, tying up hospital phone lines.

One of the largest hurdles for enforcement of robocalls has been seizing assets that belong to overseas operations that are small enough to close down their shops and be gone before they can be arrested, according to an April report on the matter. 

While efforts to stop nuisance calls have become more of a priority, US. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, said it’s important that legitimate calls not get blocked like the one he received from Greece.

“I didn’t answer it, that was the 14th of April, but they did leave a voicemail. It turned out to be the Vice President of the United States on Air Force 2,” he said. 

This article originally ran on thecentersquare.com.

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