A team of 40 state attorneys general has banded together to fight against “bothersome” and illegal robocalls, joining forces in a coalition that will work hand-in-hand with industry to identify new technological solutions to the epidemic of fraudulent phone messages.
40 State Attorneys General Join Forces To Fight Robocalls
“Robocalls are not only disruptive and bothersome, but they also allow scammers greater access and the ability to prey on our most vulnerable citizens,” says New Hampshire attorney general Gordon MacDonald, quoted by WMUR9. “That is why [North Carolina] Attorney General [Jeff] Stein and I began working with attorneys general across the country more than a year ago to address this growing problem.”
Led by MacDonald, Stein and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the task force has already met with major telecom providers, including AT&T, T-Mobile and Comcast, in hopes of developing protocols that will help stop the scourge of illegal robocalls. MacDonald, Stein and Hill are joined in their efforts by attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
A Protocol To End Neighbor Spoofing
A key focus is ending the practice of neighbor spoofing, in which a robocaller hides or conceals their caller ID information as a local number.
The attorneys general have thrown their weight behind STIR / SHAKEN, a new industry protocol that could allow telecom providers to authenticate the origins of phone calls and transmit that information amongst themselves. Federal authorities say the program could go a long way in preventing caller ID spoofing. Currently, there is no way for one telecom provider to inform another company that a call appears to be fraudulent.
“Robocalls are an obnoxious form of harassment,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote in a press release. “I am pleased to be part of this bipartisan group that will provide simple ways to avoid annoying and invasive robocalls.”
Working With Industry To Find Solutions
The attorneys general are now in talks with major telecom providers to understand what solutions are technologically feasible, along with which ones are currently being pursued. There’s no word yet on when the attorneys general will reach out to industry leaders beyond AT&T, T-Mobile and Comcast.
State authorities have also worked together to petition the Federal Communications Commission, asking the federal agency to pass new rules that would be tougher on robocallers who break the law.
Also planned is a push to educate consumers about the call blocking technologies that already exist, including NoMoRobo, an app that helps filter out fraudulent calls on your cellphone. Many telecom providers have also implemented their own solutions, offering consumers services (often for a fee) that can catch some illegal robocalls.
Robocalls Hit New Record In November
At least 5.1 billion robocalls were placed in November. That’s a new record, equal to about 1,963 robocalls per second, according to a monthly survey run by YouMail, a company that provides technology solutions to block robocalls. So you’re not imagining things if you think that you’re getting more annoying scam calls than ever before. Robocalling has doubled over the span of just one year.
Also undergoing a change is the proportion of robocalls that can be considered illegal. YouMail says that up to 60% of robocalls are now fraudulent scam calls, like Rachel from Cardholder Services, rather than the payment requests, health care alerts and other reminders that are legal under federal law.
What Is The FCC Doing About The Problem?
The Federal Communications Commission has made tackling robocalls its first consumer priority. Last month, Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a new database to track phone numbers when they change consumers, which would help “legitimate businesses” avoid calling phone numbers after they switch hands. Currently, businesses are liable to call a newly-changed phone number, thinking that the consumer has consented to receive calls, only to find that the number has changed to a consumer who never provided their consent.
International Callers Complicate The Picture
One problem the attorneys general are struggling to solve is that many illegal robocalls come from overseas, far from the reach of law enforcement officials in the States. “Robocalls are one of the biggest companies we get because they annoy all of us,” says South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. “It’s difficult for states alone to fight these, especially when the calls come from other states or other countries, but we’re committed to working together to find ways to reduce them and make recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission.” Hopefully, joining forces will allow the law enforcement officials to have a wider reach.