Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Thirty State AGs Endorse FCC’s Planned Robocall Crackdown

July 7, 2017

As published by Bloomberg News, on July 6, 2017.

Thirty state attorneys general July 5 said they support a Federal Communications Commission plan to let phone companies block robocalls that falsely appear to come from another number.

Making caller IDs display a number that isn’t the one from which a phone call actually originated violates the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. But the practice, known as caller ID spoofing, has become common among scammers and others making fraudulent robocalls. The FCC voted 3-0 in March to advance a proposal that would crack down on spoofed robocalls by letting phone companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. block calls that falsely appear to come from a phone number that only accepts incoming calls, or from an unassigned phone number.

State attorneys general, including Xavier Becerra (D) of California, Pam Bondi (R) of Florida, Eric Schneiderman (D) of New York, and Ken Paxton (R) of Texas said in the FCC filing that they support the agency’s plan.

In letting phone companies block calls that appear to come from a number whose owner has requested it be blocked for outgoing calls, there is “little risk” to legitimate callers being blocked, the attorneys general wrote. The same is true of calls falsely appearing to come from a number that’s invalid under the North American numbering system, or that has either not been allocated to a provider or assigned to a subscriber, they said.

“As such, allowing providers to block these calls would stymie scammers without burdening businesses,” they said, calling the proposal “a step in a positive direction for the FCC and for consumers, as they will reduce the ability of scammers to spoof real and fake numbers, and increase the ability of law enforcement to track down scammers.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said robocalls are the top source of consumer complaints to the agency. In their filing, the attorneys general said they’ve driven a large volume complaints at the state level as well. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office received nearly 10 times as many complaints about robocall scams in 2016 as in 2014.

In connection with its proposal, the FCC is also gathering input on whether it should authorize providers to use a technical solution that could reliably identify spoofed robocalls and preemptively block them. The state attorneys general didn’t comment on that question.