Attorney General Shapiro Fights to Stop Illegal Robocalls that Plague Consumers

July 5, 2017 | Topic: Consumers

AG Shapiro to FCC: “Block these illegal robocalls”

HARRISBURG — In a comment to the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a bipartisan coalition of 29 other attorneys general are asking the federal government to adopt rules that will let telephone providers block illegal robocalls being made to consumers in Pennsylvania and across the country.

The FCC is requesting public comment on rules that would allow telephone service providers to block several kinds of “spoofed” calls. Scammers frequently use “spoofing” when they send robocalls – a tactic which allows deceitful persons to mimic the phone numbers of legitimate businesses on the receiving party’s caller ID. This spoofing tactic helps scammers deceive vulnerable populations – particularly the elderly. The Attorneys General in their comment to the FCC described these calls as “growing menaces” to the public.

“I’m taking action with my colleagues to protect Pennsylvanians and Americans from telephone scams, which victimize seniors and other vulnerable populations in our Commonwealth,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “As Attorney General I take seriously my role in protecting consumers from scam artists, whether they’re a storefront repairman, an online T shirt operator, or illegal robocallers. The FCC should let telephone companies block these illegal robocalls.”

Robocalls are a major irritant to Pennsylvania consumers. According to Bureau of Consumer Protection officials in the Office of Attorney General, 4,473 consumers made complaints to the office based on receiving robocalls – despite having placed their phone number on the do-not-call list under the Pennsylvania Telemarketer Registration Act.

Attorney General Shapiro and his colleagues are calling for rules that allow telephone companies to block calls originating from “spoofed” or invalid numbers, unallocated numbers and numbers whose owners have requested be blocked. For example, phone providers would be able to block a scammer that is using a telephone number that clearly can’t exist because it hasn’t been assigned. This would cut off the oxygen for these scams.

The letter also sounds the alarm about the growing number of telephone scams across the country, including the notorious “IRS Scam” which victimized more than 10,000 people by falsely claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service and stating back taxes were owed by the call recipient. In one central Pennsylvania case exposed by Attorney General Shapiro in March, an elderly couple was bilked out of $5,000 through this type of scam.

“Legitimate businesses do not need to use any of these [spoofing] methods to contact consumers,” the Attorneys General wrote in their comment to the FCC. “Allowing providers to block these calls would stymie scammers without burdening businesses.”

The comment period ends on July 31, and the FCC is expected to issue its rule something later this year.

Attorney General Shapiro was joined on the letter by the attorneys general of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

 For a copy of the letter, click here.

For a copy of the notice of proposed rules, click here.

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