Herring agreement with phone companies fights robocalls
Attorney General Mark Herring and a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general have reached an agreement with major phone companies to fight illegal robocalls.
As a result of a bipartisan, public/private coalition of 51 attorneys general and twelve phone companies, the companies have agreed to adopt eight principles to fight illegal robocalls across the country. This agreement will help protect phone users from illegal robocalls and make it easier for attorneys general to investigate and prosecute robocalls.
“This agreement provides us with a comprehensive approach to combatting the robocall epidemic that folks are experiencing here in Virginia and around the country,” said Herring. “Robocalls are not only annoying but they can also be potentially dangerous and could scam Virginians out of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. With these principles we will be able to attack illegal robocalls from both sides by attempting to stop them from coming through and also having more tools to investigate and prosecute them. I want to thank these companies for working with us to come up with solutions to these problems and I hope they will work on implementing them as quickly as they can.”
The principles included in the agreement address the robocall problem in two main ways: prevention and enforcement.
Phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:
- Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers.
- Making available to customers additional, free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools.
- Implementing technology to authenticate that callers are coming from a valid source.
- Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic.
Phone companies will assist attorneys’ general anti-robocall enforcement by:
- Knowing who their customers are so bad actors can be identified and investigated.
- Investigating and taking action against suspicious callers – including notifying law enforcement and state attorneys general.
- Working with law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to trace the origins of illegal robocalls.
- Requiring telephone companies with which they contract to cooperate in traceback identification.
Going forward, phone companies will stay in close communication with the coalition of attorneys general to continue to optimize robocall protections as technology and scammer techniques change.
“The principles offer a comprehensive set of best practices that recognizes that no single action or technology is sufficient to curb the scourge of illegal and unwanted robocalls,” said Levi Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University Henning Schulzrinne. “I hope that all parts of the telecommunication industry, both large and small, will commit to rapidly implementing these principles and work with state and federal authorities to make people want to answer their phone again without fear of being defrauded or annoyed.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Virginia was the 7th highest state in the nation for Do Not Call Registry complaints with 181,936 complaints in 2018. Additionally, Virginians made more than 118,000 complaints to the FTC about robocalls alone.
Americans received almost 18 billion scam robocalls in 2018 and overall, robocalls increased in the U.S. by 57 percent from 2017 to 2018. The FCC reports that imposter scams have reportedly cost consumers $488 million just in 2018.
Back in June, Herring filed suit against two Roanoke-based telemarketing companies, and Roanoke resident Bryant Cass, for alleged illegal robocalling and deceptive sales practices.
The Attorney General has the following tips for Virginians to help manage robocalls:
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you do not recognize.
- If it’s an unwanted robocall, hang up.
- Don’t press any numbers. This could lead to even more calls, even if the robocall claims you can press 1 to speak to a live operator or press a number to get your number off the calling list.
- Register your home and mobile phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.govor by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register.
- Report robocalls to the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov. Federal and state law enforcement officials have access to the complaints filed through the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Contact your phone service provider and ask about available robocall-blocking technology.
- Consider using mobile apps or other features that may already be built into your phone to block robocalls.
The coalition of companies includes AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream.