Robocalls on the rise; attorneys general calling for changes to laws, regulations

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is joining other attorneys general to call on the FCC and telecom providers to crack down on robocalls.

"Everyone hates robocalls. Robocalls are exceptionally annoying. But it's worse than annoying - it is a source of fraud," Stein said.

A common theme involves the scammer telling the recipient they won money, and need to provide information and/or a minor payment to collect.

"We have received about $3 million in reports of fraud as a result of robocalls, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's so many people who are scammed who never let our office know, in part because they don't know to do that but also because they're embarrassed," Stein said, and he added that his office receives more complaints about robocalls than any other issue.

According to a January report from YouMail, there were nearly 48 billion robocalls placed in the United States in 2018, about a 57 percent increase from 2017.

On Monday, as he was meeting with a group of senior citizens to discuss scam calls, an attendee received a call from one.

"The guy told her that she won $3.5 million and they're throwing in a Mercedes for free. And all she had to do was give them information," Stein recalled.

That is when Stein took the phone and informed the caller they were breaking the law before hanging up, drawing loud applause from the crowd.

Along with other attorneys general, they're working with the FCC and the country's 12 largest telecom providers, asking for free and automatic call-blocking services for all customers and monitoring of network traffic, allowing telecom providers to identify patterns and cut off calls consistent with robocalls.

Furthermore, they'd like to see ID authentication technology developed specifically for landlines, which many scam victims use.

"The technology doesn't exist to put on the screens to shield them to the same extent it does with cell phones. So consumer education becomes a really important part of what we're doing," said Stein.

If you receive a call from a number you do not recognize, do not answer. Stein noted that answering the call tells the scammer that it is a real number and can be targeted again. He added that if you do answer a call from a scammer, you can call Stein's office at (877) 5-NO SCAM, where you can provide the number and product you are being pitched.

In North Carolina, state leaders recently passed the Truth in Caller ID Act in an effort to enhance transparency. It will prohibit solicitors from causing misleading information to come up under the ID. The law goes into effect on December 1.
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