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Nessel gives update on the fight against robocalls

Anti-Robocall Principles required companies to offer customers free call labeling and blocking tools, among other steps.
Why you need to be careful before answering the phone when it's a number you don't recognize.
Why you need to be careful before answering the phone when it's a number you don't recognize.(wsfa)
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 11:55 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has released an update on telecom companies’ progress in employing the Anti-Robocall Principles she signed onto in 2019.

Since September 2019, companies that agreed to these principles have identified more than 52 billion spam or spoofed numbers calls, authenticated the caller ID numbers of hundreds of billions of calls, and blocked more than 32.5 billion spam, spoofed, or illegal calls.

“There is more work to do, however,” said Nessel, who has made fighting robocalls a top priority since the onset of her tenure. “Already this year, 391,453 Americans have filed reports with the FTC about robocalls, reporting totals of at least $356 million in losses. These numbers underscore the need to continue to fight back against the scourge of robocalls.”

In early 2020, Nessel led a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general in calling on US Telecom and its Industry Traceback Group to continue a collaboration with state attorneys general by reinforcing technological capabilities to improve enforcement against illegal robocallers.

“While we’re making progress, I recognize there is much more work to be done by this office and my colleagues across the country to shut down these operations,” Nessel said. “We will continue to protect Michigan consumers and pursue illegal robocalls to the furthest extent of the law.”

Additionally, Nessel reached a settlement with a California-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) voice service provider, MODOK LLC, to exit the VoIP telecom industry and begin ceasing its operations. That agreement marked the first time a state attorney general was able to permanently shut down a VoIP service provider and bar its ownership from working in the industry.

The developments in this area also led to criminal charges against a pair of political workers who had organized a series of robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the November general election.

The Anti-Robocall Principles required companies to:

  • offer customers free call labeling and blocking tools,
  • implement network-level call blocking,
  • combat caller ID spoofing on their networks with STIR/SHAKEN technology,
  • confirm the identity of commercial customers,
  • analyze and monitor high-volume network traffic consistent with robocalls,
  • investigate suspicious calls and calling patterns on their networks, and
  • cooperate in traceback investigations and aid law enforcement.

Enforcement actions have increased as a result of efforts by the telecom companies that signed onto the Principles. Since the Principles were established:

  • The Industry Traceback Group (ITG), working alongside state attorneys general, ran 4,769 tracebacks, about three times as many investigations as were conducted prior to the Principles.
  • The ITG identified 319 domestic and foreign providers as originating the majority of robocalls.
  • Law enforcement and government agencies, including state attorneys general, have sent more than 162 civil investigative demands and subpoenas to the ITG alone.
  • Law enforcement and government agencies, including state attorneys general, have sent additional civil investigative demands, subpoenas, and warning letters to the companies that do business with robocallers and with those that help these illegal and fraudulent calls reach consumers.

If you believe you have received a robocall, you can help bolster investigations in Michigan by reporting the calls here. Learn more about enforcement efforts and robocall initiatives on the Department’s website.

Copyright 2021 WILX. All rights reserved.

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