Everybody hates them: those pesky no-name phone calls that arrive at all hours of the day or night to disrupt our lives with a sales pitch for some unwanted product or service.
Call blocking doesn’t seem to work because your number will just be handed over to the next line in a foreign phone bank designed to handle people like you. What to do?
All 50 state attorneys general have joined together to form the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force to file lawsuits against telecommunications companies bringing the majority of foreign robocalls into the United States. The Federal Trade Commission implemented the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003, but this law has little impact on foreign telemarketers.
“We will take this fight to all who assist or enable these scam calls,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). “If the telecom industry refuses to create and comply with reasonable regulations, then our task force will demand compliance.”
So far, the task force has issued 20 civil investigative demands to 20 gateway providers and other entities accused of creating the majority of foreign robocall traffic. Gateway companies are the links between callers and American phone companies that allow the robocalls to go through. Calls such as these fleeced victims of $29.8 billion dollars last year, Paxton said.
“Gateway providers that bring foreign traffic into the U.S. telephone networks have a responsibility to ensure the traffic is legal, but these providers are turning a blind eye to robocall traffic,” Paxton added.
More than 33 million scam robocalls are made to American phone numbers every day. These include phony Social Security Administration calls to seniors, operators pretending to be from the IRS to collect personal information, and scammers pretending to be from Amazon asking for credit card numbers, according to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) noted that telemarketers have been required to abide by anti-harassment laws since 1995, but the FTC has not upgraded its approach to ferreting out bad actors in the new digital era.
“Law enforcement must be able to get the records they need to hold accountable companies that are breaking the law,” Stein said. “We need more enforcement actions to stop these nuisance calls.”
Not all robocalls are from overseas. In February, Stein sued Texas company Articul8 and its founder, Paul Talbot, for violating FTC rules by targeting millions of North Carolina residents between 2020 and 2021. Some people received up to 200 calls a day.
Articul8 has placed scam phone calls since 2015 that include members of the Do Not Call Registry, the lawsuit says. The callers impersonated a variety of government officials and even formed an attack on a hospital emergency room.