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State attorneys general across the country are joining the fight against the ongoing scourge of robocalling.
In conjunction with a dozen phone companies, attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington D.C. announced on Thursday new provisions to combat the issue.
Among the policies the phone companies agreed to implement included call screening and call-blocking technology at no cost to their customers. The companies also agreed to provide the officials with additional information aimed at helping their offices investigate and take action against scam callers.
“Robocalls are a scourge — at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, said in a statement. “By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call. They’ve also agreed to do more to help other state attorneys general and me track down the scammers and fraudsters responsible so that we can keep them from preying on people."
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Comcast (which owns NBC), Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Consolidated, Frontier, US Cellular, and Windstream joined into the state attorneys general coalition of phone service providers.
"The bad actors running these deceptive operations will soon have one call left to make: to their lawyers," New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said in a statement. "New Yorkers don’t want to be woken up by illegal robocalls, don’t want their dinner interrupted by scamming robocalls, and don’t even want one minute of their day disrupted by robocalls that only aim to swindle innocent victims, so we’re taking action to bring the number of unsolicited calls way down."
It's the latest government effort at curbing robocalls in 2019. In June, the Federal Communications Commission voted to make it easier for telecom companies to block suspected scam calls on their customers' behalf. Meanwhile, the Senate in May passed the TRACED Act, which would push the major telecom companies to better authenticate calls while also increasing penalties and fines that the FCC can bring against scammers.
According Seattle-based software company Hiya, Americans received a total of 26.3 billion robocalls in 2018, a 46 percent increase from 18 billion in 2017.
Both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission receive a mind-boggling number of complaints monthly from Americans who upset about the unsolicited calls. Last year, the FCC received 232,000 complaints regarding unwanted calls like robocalls and telemarketing offers, while the FTC received more than 3.7 million robocall complaints alone.