State law enforcement agencies, telecom firms band together to fight robocalls

Paul Kurtz
August 23, 2019 - 3:20 pm
Close up of woman's hands with smartphone and unknown incoming phone call on it, fraud or scam schemes

Oleksii Spesyvtsev / iStock / Getty Images Plus

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There's a new nationwide initiative to push back against robocalls.

Attorneys general from all 50 states say they are teaming up with 12 major telecom companies to focus on robocall prevention and enforcement.

Sarah Frasch, director of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection, says the phone companies will offer free call blocking and labeling services, monitor their networks for robocall traffic, and develop technology that lets people know if a call is coming from a valid source. 

"We understand there's always gonna be scammers and wrongdoers out there. But if we can create extra burdens, extra hurdles for them to be able to do this, that's that many more people that we've protected from being harmed," she said.

The telecoms will keep law enforcement officials in the loop so they can follow up with punitive action. Unsolicited robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint in Pennsylvania. And it doesn't take much to get people lathered about the issue.

"It's awful, and if you call the number back it's either a disconnected or no longer in service number," explained Tiffany McGoldrick.

"I think just any time you answer a phone and it's an electronic message on the other end, it's impersonal and just annoying to waste your time,” said Tom Lavendar.

"I don't answer any call that I don't have the caller ID person’s name in it. Don't answer it, ever," Bob Schmidt added.

In a statement, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, "Robocall scams are not simply an annoyance — they are illegal and they are used to take advantage of our seniors and other vulnerable populations. I'm proud to stand with my colleague attorneys general and major telecom companies in announcing this ringing success in the fight against illegal robocalls."

So what would the penalties be?

“By law we can ask for up to $1,000 per violation or $3,000 if the consumer is 60 or older. So of course we would seek the maximum penalty for any of these that we found,” explained Sarah Frasch with the AG’s office.