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October 9, 2018

Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

BISMARCK, ND — Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem joined a bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General calling 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 North Dakota and across the country.

“Attorneys General have united to continue the fight to protect Americans from these bothersome and illegal robocall scams,” Stenehjem said. “As Attorney General, I take seriously my role to protect consumers from scams of all kinds. The FCC should create new rules to let telephone service providers block more types of illegal robocalls.”

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 following legal action by state attorneys general. Despite the FCC’s order, robocalls continue to be a major irritant to consumers in North Dakota and across the United States. Stenehjem said these illegal robocalls were the #1 North Dakota consumer complaint received by his office last year. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014.

Following an initial win for American consumers in November 2017, when the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, the 35 attorneys general now seek 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 as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the consumer will answer the call. 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.

The comment letter was submitted by Stenehjem, the Attorneys General of 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, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

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Read the Comment Letter

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