Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules allowing telephone service providers to block more illegal robocalls being made to unsuspecting consumers in Virginia and across the country.
“It seems today like every Virginian has either received these annoying robocalls or they know someone who has; even I have received them and I am the Attorney General,” Herring said. “These robocalls are not just annoying and frustrating to consumers, but they are also illegal, and folks should not have to worry about being scammed by these types of phone calls.”
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 Virginia and across the United States.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014. The Virginia Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section receives numerous complaints each year with respect to illegal calls, including scam calls, telemarketing complaints and robocalls.
Following last year’s order when the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, the attorneys general are now seeking added authority for the providers to work together to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls – including “neighbor spoofing.” “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 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 and first three digits as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the consumer will answer the call.
In the formal comment, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues expressed support for a 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.