Robocalls Prompt States to Join Feds in Crackdown

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Robocalls Prompt States to Join Feds in Crackdown
In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans.
A man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. About half the states have signed agreements with the Federal Communications Commission to better coordinate their efforts in stopping scam robocalls.
Jenny Kane The Associated Press

Nearly half the states are joining forces with the Federal Communications Commission to boost the law enforcement fight against scam robocalls.

The 22 states have signed memoranda of understanding with the federal agency that will strengthen their partnerships in the battle against spoofing and robocalls that try to trick recipients into buying unneeded products or services. (Spoofing happens when a spam call appears to come from a trusted or local number.)

The partnerships open information sharing between the agencies, prevent duplication and allow states to use federal help with subpoenas and other investigative tools, the FCC said. The FCC also has existing agreements with robocall-blocking companies that states can use. 

“The FCC and these state leaders share a common enemy: robocall scammers targeting consumers and businesses around the country,” said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel in a news release.

The six most recent states to sign on are Connecticut, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey and Wyoming, along with the District of Columbia.

“My team’s commitment to protecting consumers fits hand-in-glove with state Attorneys General’s ongoing efforts to combat these scams,” Rosenworcel said. 

Idaho’s attorney general, Republican Lawrence Wasden, said the cooperation between states and the federal agency will help more effectively investigate robocalls and their perpetrators, who have proven elusive and hard to stop.

“Robocalls are a global problem and individually we as states are not equipped to tackle such an enormous issue,” Wasden said in a news release. “But there’s force in numbers and when we team up with other states and federal agencies like the FCC, we’re much more effective. Robocalls are a plague and combatting them takes an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

The Federal Trade Commission reported that in the fourth quarter of last year, it received about 89,000 reports of phone call fraud, with nearly $157 million in reported money lost. Phone calls made up a quarter of the fraudulent contacts with consumers in the period.

YouMail, a private company that sells call-blocking software and tracks the estimated number of calls, reported 3.8 billion unwanted robocalls in February, down from 3.9 billion in January, but still amounting to 134 million a day, which averages out to 11.5 calls per person with a phone in that month.

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