AG Shapiro leading fight to stop illegal robocalls plaguing consumers

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — Attorney General Josh Shapiro is leading a bipartisan coalition of 34 Attorneys General that is asking the Federal Communications Commission to allow phone companies to use new technology and do more to block illegal robocalls — including “neighbor spoofing.”

Service providers will be ready to launch this new authentication method in 2019.

The formal comment to the FCC explains that scammers using illegal robocalls have found ways to evade a call blocking order entered last year by the FCC — following legal action led by Shapiro and fellow attorneys general.

Despite the FCC’s order, robocalls continue to be a major irritant to consumers in Pennsylvania and across the United States, according to a press release.

• In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints — two-and-a-half times more than in 2014.

• The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection receives thousands of complaints each year with respect to illegal calls, including scam calls, telemarketing complaints, and robocalls.

After the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, the attorneys general now seek added authority for the providers to work together and use new technology to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls. That includes “neighbor spoofing” — a technique that allows calls, no matter where they originate, to appear on a consumer’s caller ID as being made from a phone number that has the same area code as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood the consumer will answer the call.

“I’m taking new action with my colleagues to continue the fight to protect Pennsylvanians and Americans from these bothersome and illegal robocall scams, which are used to scam seniors and other vulnerable populations,” Shapiro said in the release. “As Attorney General, I take seriously my role to protect consumers from scams of all kinds. The FCC should create new rules to let telephone service providers block more types of illegal robocalls.”

“Spoofing” allows scammers to disguise their identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to bring them to justice.

“Virtually anyone can send millions of illegal robocalls and frustrate law enforcement with just a computer, inexpensive software and an internet connection,” the Attorneys General wrote in the formal comment filed with the FCC.

The initiative concerns illegal robocalls made to consumers regardless of whether or not they sign up for do-not-call lists.

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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.