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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

AG Donovan Joins Effort To Curb Illegal Robocalls

October 11, 2018

CONTACT: Christopher Curtis, Chief Public Protection Division, 802-828-3171

AG’s Consumer Assistance Program provides tips for blocking robocalls

Attorney General T.J. Donovan called on the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to allow telephone service providers to block more illegal robocalls being made to unsuspecting consumers.

Last year, the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls. Now, 34 attorneys general seek added authority for the providers to work together to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls – including “neighbor spoofing.”

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. Despite the FCC’s order, robocalls continue to be a major irritant to consumers. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014.

“Illegal robocalls are on the upswing,” Attorney General Donovan said. “I call upon the FCC to create new rules to let telephone service providers block more types of illegal robocalls.”

“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.

One tactic on the rise is “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 local area code as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the consumer will answer the call. Spoofing an “802” number is illegal in Vermont.

In the formal comment, Attorney General Donovan and his colleagues expressed support for the new initiative, which will give phone service providers the ability to authenticate legitimate calls and identify illegally spoofed calls and block them. The added authority sought by the attorneys general will allow service providers to use new technology to detect and block illegal spoofed calls – even those coming from what are otherwise legitimate phone numbers. Service providers will be ready to launch this new authentication method in 2019.

For consumers interested in taking steps now to reduce robocalls, the AG’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) has ideas. CAP’s website lists several options for call blocking that are available to consumers. There are options for blocking calls to both cellular phones and land lines here.

Attorney General Donovan was joined on the comment by the Attorneys General of Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

For a copy of the comment, click here.

Last modified: October 16, 2018