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Attorney General Reyes Continues Work With FCC to Expose Illegal Robocallers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2020

EXPOSING ILLEGAL ROBOCALLERS: UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES CONTINUES WORK WITH FCC ON TRACED ACT ENFORCEMENT

SALT LAKE CITY– Attorney General Sean Reyes is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue the focus on ‘tracing back’ illegal robocalls at their source, using collaboration among state attorneys general and telecom companies and in partnership with the State Attorneys General Robocall Working Group on this issue.

Under the TRACED Act, which became law in December 2019, the FCC will select a single registered association to manage the work to trace back illegal robocalls. Because a call can pass through the networks of many telecom companies before reaching its destination, tracing that call—which is key to enforcing our laws against illegal robocallers—requires collaboration among telecom companies and state attorneys general. In their comments, the States note that traceback investigations are necessary for law enforcement to identify and investigate illegal robocallers and expose voice service providers that assist and facilitate illegal robocallers more efficiently.

For the last few years, state attorneys general have encouraged the telecom industry to increase the number and speed of traceback investigations each month. Many telecom companies have joined this effort and are working hard to stop illegal robocallers. Traceback investigations are more urgent than ever because of coronavirus-related robocall scams, including scams related to coronavirus relief checks, pitches for coronavirus test kits, health plans offering coronavirus testing, work-from-home offers preying on job-seekers, and scams offering relief on utility bills, student loans, taxes, or other debt.  

Since 2018, Utah has been a member of a coalition of states working with the telecom industry to attack the scourge of robocalls in a comprehensive way by implementing common-sense business practices to minimize illegal robocalls and trace these calls back to their source. Attorney General Reyes is joined in submitting today’s comments by the Attorneys General of 52 States and Territories.

A copy of the comments is available here.

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Attorney General Reyes Fights to Further Crackdown on Illegal Robocalls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2020

Attorney General Reyes Fights to Further Crackdown on Illegal Robocalls, Urges Industry to Help Increase Enforcement Against Fraudulent Calls
Utah Joins Other States in Bipartisan Letter to USTelecom

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general in calling on USTelecom – the leading organization representing telecommunications providers – and its Industry Traceback Group (ITG) to continue its collaboration with state attorneys general by bolstering technological capabilities to improve enforcement against illegal robocallers.
 
In a letter to USTelecom, the coalition is urging the association to further develop robocall traceback and other tools suited to law enforcement and regulatory needs.
 
“For many years, I have been fighting this threat to protect Utah citizens from illegal robocallers, but these criminals are very persistent, and it is a lucrative enterprise,” Attorney General Reyes said. “The problem is massive and complex. And to be clear, we are not talking about the type of robocalls that may be annoying but are not fraudulent or dangerous. We are talking about ones that lead to economic or physical exploitation and leave people with ruined lives and finances. We must work even more closely with Telecom leaders to combat these criminal robocalls. We need the right set of tools to combat this pervasive threat, and furthering this collaboration is a step in the right direction.”
 
The letter asks USTelecom to advance the ITG’s abilities in identifying robocall campaigns, trends and business ecosystems; conducting automated traceback investigations; and coordinating with relevant law enforcement agencies.
 
A key part of that action would be for USTelecom to develop and roll out an online platform to collect live data from carriers and robocall-blocking apps. When USTelecom or a law enforcement agency detects an illegal robocall campaign, the law enforcement agency would then be able to submit a subpoena to USTelecom in a streamlined online portal.
 
The process would allow for rapid review by USTelecom and provide law enforcement agencies the ability to expedite subpoena procedures and access the platform to quickly retrieve relevant data. The platform would bolster law enforcement investigations and could potentially lead to attorneys general offices issuing temporary restraining orders that could stop a live robocall campaign in its tracks.
 
The coalition’s letter follows a January 2020 meeting in Washington, D.C., with representatives from state attorneys general offices, federal agencies and the telecom industry. Some priorities developed at that meeting include:

  • Automating and increasing the total volume of traceback investigations;
  • Alerting relevant law enforcement agencies of suspected illegal robocall campaigns;
  • Enabling law enforcement agencies to electronically upload and receive responses to subpoenas and civil investigative demands, and providing swift response to those requests; and
  • Identifying noncooperative Voice Service Providers, including those that do not participate in the traceback process, repeatedly originate or accept illegal robocalls, or repeatedly fail to provide sufficient records. 

The coalition believes these measures would strengthen the partnership between the USTelecom-backed ITG and attorneys general, a relationship that led to the creation of the Anti-Robocall Principles. Those principles were established in August 2019 when 51 attorneys general and 12 major telecom providers took aim at reducing the number of unwanted and illegal robocalls reaching the American people.
 
More recently – and due in part to the support from the telecommunications industry and state attorneys general – the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act was signed into law by the federal government. This law enables the industry to develop call-authentication protocols to combat caller-ID spoofing and implement other sweeping anti-robocall measures.
 
Read a copy of the letter here.

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TRACED Act Signed Into Law, Will Provide Protection Against Robocalls

January 3, 2020

On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump signed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law. This legislation addresses the concerns raised by American consumers and will stiffen penalties, increase transparency, and enhance government collaboration to provide protection against and end the proliferation of illegal, unsolicited robocalls.

In March 2019, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined with 54 attorneys general in sending a letter to Congress to express support for the TRACED Act. The attorneys general applauded the requirement that voice service providers must participate in the call authentication framework, and the prioritization of timely, industry-wide implementation of these protocols.

From the letter to Congress:

“We believe that this legislation effectively addresses many of the concerns raised by federal regulators, voice service providers, private businesses, consumer advocacy groups, and other interested parties to combat illegal robocalls and spoofing, and we are heartened that it enables the telecom industry, federal regulators, and our offices to take meaningful steps to abate the rapid proliferation of these illegal and unwanted robocalls.”

Robocalls increased in the U.S. by 57% from 2017 to 2018. In 2018, it was estimated that the number of illegal robocalls reached almost 48 billion.

“Robocalls have become more than just a persistent disruption in the lives of Utahns. So many of these calls are, at best, a vexatious nuisance or, at worst, a scam. I commend President Trump and Congress working together to provide protection and relief for all of us against illegal robocalls,” said Attorney General Reyes. “My office and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection receive numerous complaints each month and far too many Utahans are victimized by these illegal robocalls. The TRACED Act finally gives criminal enforcement authority to regulators to deter robodial abuses and return control of phone lines to everyday Americans.”

Read the TRACED Act here.

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