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Schumer wants stiffer penalties for robocalls

Annoying phone messages from spammers and scammers are coming back with a vengeance, prompting Sen. Charles Schumer Sunday to announce a bill to hike penalties for breaking "Do Not Call" rules.

While the Do Not Call list, passed in 2003, had cut down on interrupting telemarketers and robocalls, Schumer said complaints are rising thanks to the rise in cellphone use and technology that lets a person easily send out a prerecorded message to millions of numbers.

"This problem is actually worse today than it was before," Schumer said.

The Federal Trade Commission, which manages the Do Not Call registry, saw a fivefold increase in the number of complaints over the past two years to roughly 200,000 a month in 2012, according to Schumer. The calls can come from legitimate companies selling a product or be an attempt by a scammer to get personal information.

Violating the law is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty up to $10,000. Schumer's bill would make phone spamming a felony and carry a $20,000 for each call that violates the robocalling ban.

"A $10,000 penalty is nothing for a major corporation or a big operation," Schumer said. "These harsher penalties won't be for everyone; they'll be for the worst repeat offenders and people who know the rules and violate them with abandon."

The senator also called on the FTC to work with carriers to publicize apps that can filter out robocalls. Schumer highlighted the work of Long Islander Adam Foss' app Nomorobo, the winner of an FTC competition that filters out spam calls.

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