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Feds Announce New Crackdown On Robocall Companies

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Americans received 4.7 billion robocalls last month, according to call-blocking company YouMail.

Federal authorities are now going after some of the companies behind them, CBS2's Valerie Castro reported Tuesday.

Robocalls make many of us think twice before answering the phone.

That includes Jeri Wilds.

A robocaller recently claimed they could lower her credit card interest rate. She didn't accept, but said the company still tried to charge her.

"During that time, they called me a number of times threatening to turn me over to collections," Wilds said.

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Wilds didn't hand over any money, but many other Americans have, losing $10.5 billion to phone scams in just a 12-month period.

"Our collective message to robocallers is simple: It's time to call it quits," said Andrew Smith, the director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

On Tuesday, the FTC announced a new crackdown on three robocall companies, hitting them with millions of dollars in fines. The joint state and federal enforcement also targeted several operations that authorities say were using robocalls to sell everything from "bogus credit card interest rate reduction services" to "fraudulent money-making opportunities" and "medical alert systems."

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Investigators say these companies were behind around 1 billion robocalls, but some fear this action may not have much of an effect.

Alex Quilici is CEO of the call-blocking company YouMail.

"When there's a crackdown or an enforcement action, you see fewer robocalls from the people who are cracked down on. They usually stop. The challenge is they're replaced by someone else who often does the same scam," Quilici said.

The government recently gave phone companies more power to stop robocalls from reaching our phones, but it's not clear when that will go into full effect.

So for now, expect those spam calls to continue.

Authorities have already frozen the assets of some of the robocall companies in the crackdown.

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