Clinton Calls for Disconnecting Fraudulent Telemarketers

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President Clinton has called for legislation authorizing the Justice Department to cut off the phone service of telemarketers when federal agents find evidence that they are engaged in fraudulent business practices or are preparing to do so.

Clinton, in his weekly radio address to the nation, said he would introduce legislation next month that would authorize the action, among other measures aimed at protecting senior citizens.

"The greatest threat many older Americans face is not a criminal armed with a gun, but a telemarketer armed with a deceptive rap," Clinton said in his Saturday morning speech. "Last year we toughened penalties for telemarketing fraud, but we should stop scam artists before they have a chance to harm America's seniors."

Clinton's plan follows a bill introduced last month by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), calling for the Federal Trade Commission to maintain a central database of telemarketing fraud reports and seeking stricter penalties for people convicted of telemarketing fraud.

The efforts of both Clinton and Leahy are aimed at toughening the Telemarketing Fraud Prevention Act, which Clinton signed into law last year.

Mike Sandifer, a legal affairs consultant for the American Teleservices Association, said the group generally endorses such actions, although it has not yet taken a stance on the new legislation.

"In the past, the ATA has been very supportive of legislation protecting senior citizens," he said. "It helps get these people off of using our marketing channel."

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