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Carriers, lawmakers seek solutions to flood of robocalls

More than 48 billion robocalls were made to American phones last year, making many people wonder whether anything's being done to stop them.

Some robocalls can be useful, such as a snow closing from school or notification of a late payment. But more often, robocalls are scams.

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"The people that are perpetrating robocalls are criminals," said Assistant Attorney General Brandon Garod. "They're people usually overseas that are attempting to convince people to send them their money."

And they never seem to stop.

"I maybe get one or two a day," said Jim Fucella, of Concord. "I just don't answer them."

"I probably get them four times a day when I'm at work, which is really nice," said Marlena Dipre, of Salisbury.

Researchers said 4.9 billion robocalls were made nationwide last month. In New Hampshire, 12.3 million robocalls were received.

"I really don't like them," said Jeff Haradon, of Gilmanton. "I block them every time, and then they get a new number and call me again."

Phone providers said they're trying to silence scam robocalls.

"We want you to have control over that home phone," said Jonathan Dubois, director of product management for Xfinity.

Comcast and AT&T are testing a new verification process that could help weed out fake phone calls.

"I think any time we get a chance to partner with anyone in the industry to provide all customers with solutions, it helps," Dubois said.

The program is in its early stages, but there are some options available to consumers now. Comcast's Xfinity voice currently works with Nomorobo, a service that screens calls and then hangs up on or blocks illegal robocallers or telemarketers.

"So your experience at home is, you've got to let the phone ring the first time," Dubois said. "That first ring, it's checking to see who that is. If it's somebody you want, it will ring again."

There's also a push for solutions at the federal level. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has introduced the TRACED Act, a bipartisan bill that would require carriers to adopt a system to verify the source of calls and give consumers a way to block calls and texts.

Violators would face up to three years in jail and a $10,000 fine per call.

"More than 1,000 calls per second," Markey said. "Robocalls are happening faster than the speed of light."

New Hampshire U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan are cosponsoring the bill. New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald has joined other attorneys general in signing a letter urging lawmakers to pass the bill.

"The best solution to this is to develop technology to block these incoming robocalls," Garod said.

The TRACED Act still needs Senate and House approval before going to the president. Until then, consumers are advised to be picky with incoming calls.

"The best advice is that if it's not someone that's in your contacts, just don't pick it up," Garod said. "Let it go to voicemail."