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Attorneys general and telecommunications companies join to stop robocalls

Robocall Sign on a Cell Phone Being Held Up By a HandFifty-one attorneys general announced an agreement Thursday with 12 telecommunications providers on a set of principles intended to limit and prevent robocalls. The providers have agreed to incorporate these principles into their business practices.

This agreement comes from the work of a group of attorneys general who in 2018 formed the Robocall Technologies Working Group.

The group collaborated with telecommunication providers to make it more difficult for scammers to use robocall technologies to intrude on and defraud consumers.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have joined this agreement with the following telecommunication companies: AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream.

“We applaud the efforts of these telecommunications companies to stop unwanted robocalls,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Robocalls initiated from fake numbers are more than just a nuisance – they’re illegal. Today’s announcement is a useful step toward eliminating these types of calls, which far too often lead to identify theft and financial loss.”

Consumers must continue to be vigilant, Becerra said. “However, today’s commitment by our industry partners is a step in the right direction to provide every landline and wireless customer with access to free and effective call-blocking tools.”

Consumer fraud often originates with a robocall. Robocalls and telemarketing calls are currently the No. 1 source of consumer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

During 2018, according to the FTC, consumers reported a loss of $429 million as a result of phone-based frauds.

The adopted principles commit the providers to:

  • Offer free call blocking and labeling to stop robocalls before they reach consumers.
  • Launch STIR/SHAKEN to ensure that numbers aren’t illegally spoofed and to prevent scammers from providing a number they aren’t authorized to use.
  • Analyze and monitor network traffic to identify and monitor patterns consistent with robocalls.
  • Investigate suspicious calls and calling patterns, identify the party, and take appropriate action.
  • Confirm the identity of commercial customers by collecting information such as location, contact persons, state or country of incorporation, federal tax ID, and type of the customer’s business.
  • Require traceback cooperation in call interconnection contracts by seeking language requiring voice service providers to identify the upstream carrier from which a suspected illegal robocall entered its network or to where the call originated in its network.
  • Cooperate in traceback investigations by dedicating resources to respond to requests from law enforcement and the US Telecom’s Industry Traceback Group, so that scammers can be identified and prosecuted.
  • Communicate with state attorneys general about scams and trends in illegal robocalling.

Becerra said he has repeatedly called on the FCC to take action to stop robocalls, and he continues to urge the FCC to take actions consistent with Thursday's agreement between state attorneys general and telecommunications carriers.

That includes support for the FCC's orders authorizing carriers to put in place call blocking systems, as well as support for the FCC's stated intention to mandate the launching of STIR/SHAKEN by the end of 2019 if it’s not voluntarily done. 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the principles adopted by the attorneys general and telecommunications companies align with the FCC’s anti-robocalling and spoofing efforts.

Earlier in August, Pai said the FCC adopted rules to apply anti-spoofing prohibitions to international robocalls.

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