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Our view: More work still needed to stem the tide of robocalls

Enter the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force, a nationwide effort that’s being made to investigate and take legal action against companies who bring foreign robocalls into the United States. The coalition includes attorneys general from all 50 states.

Herald pull quote, 8/6/22
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We appreciate the automatic call that comes to our cellphones to remind us about an appointment with a doctor’s office. But nobody likes the multiple calls about extended auto warranties, oceanfront property for sale in Oklahoma or any of the myriad maddening pitches we get on our cellular phones these days – usually hiding behind the mask of a local number, or even a number that seems familiar.

Enter the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force, a nationwide effort that’s being made to investigate and take legal action against companies who bring foreign robocalls into the United States. The coalition includes attorneys general from all 50 states.

The idea behind it is to try to reduce the nation’s plague of scam and annoying phone calls, which lead to nearly $30 billion stolen each year, according to the National Consumer Law Center.

More than 30 million robocalls are received by Americans each day, according to the NCLC. Yes, each day.

The efforts to crack down on scammers and robocalls isn’t new. In 2018, we urged the Federal Communications Commission and telephone companies to target 2019 to reduce scam calls.

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At that time, we noted that “the number of robocalls with a North Dakota 701 area code was 2.4 million in November. In Minnesota's 218 area code, it was 5 million. Both of those call totals also have greatly increased in the past two years. It's so bad that the CEO of YouMail.com, Alex Quilici, told Forum News Service that 2018 is ‘absolutely’ the worst year for robocalls in America.”

In 2021, we wrote that “more movement comes in the battle vs. robocalls.” At that time, the FCC had given wireless phone providers a deadline to self-report whether they are complying with the agency’s new rules regarding robocalls.

These were good developments, but still, the dang phone keeps ringing.

Now, the 50 attorneys general on the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force will investigate “gateway providers” that sell access to U.S. telephone networks. According to a recent report by Forum News Service, the ultimate goal is to bring legal action against the companies and cut down on illegal calls. While much of the traffic originates from different countries, the task force aims to shut down domestic providers who route scam calls to the U.S.

FNS reported that the task force has filed subpoenas demanding information from the 20 companies they believe are responsible for a significant volume of robocalls.

More good news.

It’s true that some of these calls are simple reminders from a doctor or dentist – helpful calls, from a local source, and not trying to hide behind any kind of fake number or dark motive.

But so many of these robocalls are outright scams, seeking Social Security information or other private data. The calls come from common scoundrels and swindlers who must be pursued, caught and appropriately punished.

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So it’s good that yet another effort is being taken, because it’s obvious that catching these people – and stemming the tide of robocalls – is not an easy undertaking.

Maybe someday, we all can have some peace and …

Wait a moment – the phone is ringing.

Caller ID says it’s from the IRS. This must be important.

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