Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for federal action to rein in robocalls...

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for federal action to rein in robocalls and spam calls. Credit: Charles Eckert

Long Island residents have been bombarded with millions of unwanted robocalls and spam calls in recent months, according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who announced Sunday he is launching a bipartisan push to pass legislation that would rein in what he calls “annoying and hair-pulling calls.”

Schumer said he has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which he said would give federal agencies the tools and authority they need to prosecute and fine robocall operators. He said he will work with Congress for swift passage of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Long Island and New York residents received more than 176 million robocalls in April alone and more than 720 million since Jan. 1. Many of the unwanted calls are attempts to scam New Yorkers out of money, he said.

“Robocalls — at all hours of the day and night — and ‘spoofing’ scams annoy and rip-off countless New Yorkers and Long Islanders, and the TRACED Act will finally arm federal agencies with new tools and authority to trace, prosecute, and enforce fines against robocall scammers,” Schumer said.

Authorities in Nassau and Suffolk counties have warned residents — especially seniors — this year to be wary of con artists who have stolen in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims, often by claiming to be police officers, IRS agents  or other government officials.

Americans received a record 4.9 billion robocalls in March despite federal “do not call” rules, and Schumer said the number of robocalls and spam calls will continue to skyrocket if the TRACED Act is not passed. The bill would give the Federal Communications Commission the ability to fine robocall perpetrators $10,000 per call and increase the time frame in which the FCC could fine and prosecute individuals behind robocalls from one year to three years after a call is placed.

The bill would also require the FCC, the Justice Department and other agencies to issue recommendations to Congress on how to combat robocalls. It would also require telecommunications companies to implement technology that would stop robocalls before they reach the phones of victims.

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