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EDITORIAL: Please Congress, pass the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act

The aim of robocalls is always the same: To swindle unsuspecting folks with offers for weight-loss aids, solar panels and various bogus money-making opportunities.

A call log displayed via an app on a cellphone.  There are tools to fight the scourge of robocalls, and Congress should quickly pass legislation to further crack down on the industry.
A call log displayed via an app on a cellphone. There are tools to fight the scourge of robocalls, and Congress should quickly pass legislation to further crack down on the industry.
AP File Photo/John Raoux

Congress, it’s your turn now.

The Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement agencies are doing their part to fight the scourge of incessant, illegal robocalls with a major new crackdown targeting scammers.

On Tuesday, the FTC and its partners announced dozens of lawsuits and settlements against robocall operators, as part of “Operation Call It Quits.”

To that we say: Good. Keep going.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is one of the FTC’s partners. His office had filed suit against two West Chicago companies who allegedly called people on the federal Do Not Call registry to pitch home cleaning services.

It’s time for lawmakers in Washington to bolster these efforts by passing the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. The bill targets “spoofing” calls, which pop up with what appears to be a local number but are coming from outside the area. The bill would require phone carriers to offer consumers free technology to identify and block these spam calls.

Companion legislation in the Senate, co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, passed the Senate last month.

That’s a cautiously hopeful sign that lawmakers and the feds might be making inroads to rein in scammers who have placed 25 billion robocalls to Americans’ phones already in 2019. At that rate, and without significant action, we’re likely to be hit with more than the 48 billion calls that were placed in 2018.

The aim is always the same: To swindle unsuspecting folks with offers for weight-loss aids, solar panels, supposed money-making opportunities and the like.

Case in point would be the company that pitched medical alert systems supposedly worth more than $400. But the systems were offered for free if the person forked over a credit card number. Those who did were charged immediately.

In that case, the FTC won a multimillion-dollar settlement in federal court in Chicago against New York-based Lifewatch and its associated telemarketers.

Last year, the FTC received about 3.8 million complaints about robocalls.

Lawmakers, please give us a break.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.