Bipartisan Coalition of 34 Attorneys General Urges FCC to Let Phone Companies Do More to Block Illegal Robocalls – Including Neighbor Spoofing
NEW YORK – Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood – part of a bipartisan coalition of 34 Attorneys General – today 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 in New York and across the country.
In formal comments filed with the FCC, the Attorneys General explain that scammers using illegal robocalls have found ways to evade a call blocking order entered last year by the FCC. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014.
Last year, at the urging of a coalition of Attorneys General, 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 to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls – including “neighbor spoofing.”
“Unwanted robocalls aren’t just a nuisance – they’re a means for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Underwood. “New Yorkers have been bombarded with these illegal robocall scams – including the all-too-common spoofed calls that appear to come from a neighbor – and it’s time for federal action.”
“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 comments 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 and exchange as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the consumer will answer the call.
In November 2017, the FCC issued the 2017 Call Blocking Order, 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 today 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.
The comments were signed by the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, 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, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.