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Nevada part of effort seeking to stop illegal robocalls, spoofing

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt, along with a bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general, this week called on the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to allow telephone service providers to block more illegal robocalls being made to unsuspecting consumers in Nevada and across the country.

The formal comment to the FCC explains that scammers using illegal robocalls have found ways to evade a call blocking order entered last year by the FCC – following legal action by various attorneys general, Laxalt’s office said in an Oct. 9 announcement.

Despite the FCC’s order, robocalls continue to be a major irritant to consumers in Nevada and across the country.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014. The Office of the Nevada Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection receives complaints each year with respect to illegal calls, including scam calls, telemarketing complaints, and robocalls.

Following an initial win for the multistate coalition when the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, the coalition of attorneys general now seek added authority for the providers to work together to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls – including “neighbor spoofing.”

“Illegal robocalls scam unsuspecting Nevadans out of their hard-earned money,” said Laxalt. “While these scammers are extremely difficult to track, my office is doing its part to influence policy decisions to rein in robocallers.”

One tactic on the rise is “neighbor spoofing,” a technique that allows scammers to disguise their identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to bring them to justice.

“Spoofers” can manipulate a call, regardless of where the call originates, to appear on a consumer’s caller ID as being made from a phone number that has the same local area code as the consumer. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the consumer will answer the call. On Nov. 17, 2017, the FCC issued the 2017 Call Blocking Order, which a group of 30 other attorneys general and AG Laxalt had encouraged the FCC to adopt.

In formal comment, the attorneys general expressed support for the new initiative, which will give phone service providers the ability to authenticate legitimate calls and identify illegally spoofed calls and block them.

The added authority sought by the attorneys general will allow service providers to use new technology to detect and block illegal “spoofed” calls – even those coming from what are otherwise legitimate phone numbers.

Service providers will be ready to launch this new authentication method in 2019.

The added authority which the attorneys general seek from the FCC is not in conflict with Nevada’s Do Not Call Law, in which consumers sign up to avoid receiving calls from legitimate vendors. The initiative for which the attorneys general seek FCC approval concerns illegal robocalls – which are made to consumers regardless of whether or not they sign up for do-not-call lists.

To date, the FCC has not issued a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning additional provider-initiated call blocking. The attorneys general anticipate that further requests for comments will take place on this subject.

In addition to Nevada, the attorneys general from the following states also signed the comment: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

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