Attorney General Wants New Rules To Block Scam Robocalls

Photo by Jason Allentoff

TRENTON – The caller ID shows an unfamiliar number with your same local exchange, attached to a name that sounds too generic to be a real person.

Chances are it’s not a long-lost friend or even a wrong number, but a robocall. It’s something Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, along with 34 other state attorneys general, wants the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on.

He and those other AGs have sent formal comments to the FCC, saying that scammers have found ways to circumvent FCC-imposed rules created just last year to block these illegal robocalls.

New Jersey residents submitted more than 134,000 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in the last 12 months, according to Grewal’s office. The FTC received 4.5 million complaints in 2017 from across the U.S., more than double the complaints lodged in 2014.

The FCC ruled that phone service providers can block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, but state AGs want added authority for providers to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls, including “neighbor spoofing.”

Photo by Jason Allentoff

“These robocalls are not just disruptive and bothersome. They are used to deceive the elderly and other vulnerable populations, and to facilitate scams that can result in identify theft, credit card fraud and other crimes,” Grewal said.  “As Attorney General, I take seriously my responsibility to protect New Jersey residents from this kind of unlawful activity. We need the FCC to heed our request and create new rules to let telephone service providers block more types of illegal robocalls.”

Scammers disguise their identifies through “spoofing,” which makes it difficult for law enforcement to act. Consumers receive these calls whether they are on do-not-call lists or not.

“Virtually anyone can send millions of illegal robocalls and frustrate law enforcement with just a computer, inexpensive software and an internet connection,” Grewal and the other Attorneys General wrote in the formal comments letter filed Oct. 10.

“Neighbor spoofing” disguises the origin of a phone number with the local area code and exchange of the person being called. That increases the chance of the consumer answering the call.

The Attorneys General want service providers to authenticate legitimate phone calls and identify spoof calls and block them. Providers will have that technology in place sometime in 2019.

Along with lead state Pennsylvania, Grewal was joined in the formal multi-state comments letter by 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 Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.