Major phone companies join with attorneys general to fight illegal robocalls

Companies reached agreement with attorneys general

By Jeff Williamson - Digital Content Manager

ROANOKE, Va. - Great news: You may soon start receiving fewer robocalls!

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Thursday that he and a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general have reached an agreement with major phone companies to fight illegal robocalls.

The companies have agreed to adopt eight principles to fight illegal robocalls across the country to help protect people from illegal robocalls and make it easier for attorneys general to investigate and prosecute robocalls.

The principles included in the agreement address the robocall problem in two main ways -- prevention and enforcement.

Phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:

  • Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers
  • Making available to customers additional, free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools
  • Implementing technology to authenticate that call are coming from a valid source
  • Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic

Phone companies will assist attorneys general in anti-robocall enforcement by:

  • Knowing who their customers are so bad actors can be identified and investigated
  • Investigating and taking action against suspicious callers, including notifying law enforcement agencies and state attorneys general
  • Working with law enforcement agencies, including state attorneys general, to trace the origins of illegal robocalls
  • Requiring telephone companies with which they contract to cooperate in tracing calls

The coalition of companies includes AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast,
Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon and Windstream.

"This agreement provides us with a comprehensive approach to combatting the robocall epidemic that folks are experiencing here in Virginia and around the country," said Herring. "Robocalls are not only annoying but they can also be potentially dangerous and could scam Virginians out of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. With these principles, we will be able to attack illegal robocalls from both sides by attempting to stop them from coming through and also having more tools to investigate and prosecute them. I want to thank these companies for working with us to come up with solutions to these problems and I hope they will work on implementing them as quickly as they can."

Virginia was ranked No. 7 on a list of Do Not Call Registry complaints by state, with 181,936 complaints in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 

Additionally, Virginians made more than 118,000 complaints to the FTC about robocalls alone.

In June, Herring filed suit against two Roanoke-based telemarketing companies and Roanoke resident Bryant Cass for alleged illegal robocalling and deceptive sales practices.

The attorney general has the following tips for Virginians to help manage robocalls:

  • Don't answer calls from numbers you do not recognize.
  • If it's an unwanted robocall, hang up.
  • Don't press any numbers. This could lead to even more calls, even if the robocall claims ​​​​​​you can press 1 to speak to a live operator or press a number to get your number off the ​​​​​​calling list.
  • Register your home and mobile phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to​​​​​​​ register.
  • Report robocalls to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. Federal and​​ state law enforcement officials have access to the complaints filed through the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Contact your phone service provider and ask about available robocall-blocking​​​​​​​ technology.
  • Consider using mobile apps or other features that may already be built into your phone to​ ​​​​block robocalls

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