AG Josh Shapiro seeks more authority from FCC for telephone providers to block robocalls

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By Steve Pope | October 9, 2018

In an effort to combat the increasing amount of robocalls Pennsylvanians receive, Attorney General Josh Shapiro along with 34 Attorneys General on Tuesday, called on the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to allow telephone service providers to block more of the calls.

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, said Mr. Shapiro in a formal comment he made to the FCC.

Last year the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls. “Spoofing” allows scammers to disguise their identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to bring them to justice. In response, the companies who are making the calls have started a new technique what is known as “neighbor spoofing,” calls.  No matter where the calls originate from, they appear on a consumer’s caller ID as being made from a phone number that has the same local area code as the consumer.

“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,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “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.”

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.

To date, the FCC has not issued a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning additional provider-initiated call blocking. The Attorneys General anticipate that further requests for comments will take place on this subject.

Steve Pope can be contacted at steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com

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