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July 5, 2017

Miller, State Attorneys General Urge FCC to Act against Illegal Robocalls and Spoofed Numbers

Attorneys general urge FCC to adopt proposed rules to allow telecom companies to thwart common techniques used by scammers

DES MOINES – Attorney General Tom Miller and a bipartisan group of state attorneys general urge the Federal Communications Commission to adopt proposed rules that would allow telephone providers to block certain telephone scams using illegal robocalls and “spoofed” numbers.

In a letter sent this week to the FCC, the 30 state attorneys general support an FCC proposal to remove regulatory roadblocks to help address the rampant number of telephone scam complaints across the country.

“The sooner the FCC can clear the way for telecom providers to deal with these pervasive telephone scams, the better,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Putting a stop to spoofing and illegal robocalls should be high on anyone’s list, as every day it takes a terrible toll on victims here in Iowa and across the country,” Miller added. “The phone scams that telecom companies don’t currently block aren’t just annoying—in many cases victims suffer significant financial losses and identity theft.”

The FCC requested public comment on proposed rules that would allow providers to block several types of “spoofed” calls. A spoofed call appears on a caller ID display to come from one number, but actually comes from a different number. Scammers frequently spoof calls— including changing the displayed number and source information—to hide their identity and to trick consumers into believing their calls are legitimate.

The ongoing “IRS scam” is a leading example, which continues to cost victims significant losses in Iowa and nationwide. Aggressive callers—either live or through robocalls—claim to represent the IRS. The callers, who are generally located in foreign countries, demand immediate payment for supposed back-taxes or penalties, and threaten immediate arrest. Caller ID displays are often spoofed to help further the scam, and may show an actual IRS number, fake caller information, or may be blocked.

Currently, regulatory roadblocks prevent telecommunications companies from blocking many illegal robocalls. The proposed FCC rules would allow providers to block calls coming from invalid numbers, unassigned numbers, and numbers whose owners have requested be blocked.  For example, the proposed rules would allow phone providers to block a scammer using a nonexistent phone number that hasn’t been assigned.

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has identified robocalls as the ‘number one consumer complaint,’ and consumers frequently complain about these calls to our offices as well,” the attorneys general write. “Legitimate businesses do not need to use any of these methods to contact consumers.”

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