News Releases

ICYMI: Stop the unwanted robocalls


February 11, 2019

Rutledge says, ‘I will take all measures necessary to advocate on behalf of Arkansans to stop these calls and prosecute those responsible.’

LITTLE ROCK – Sunday, an op-ed written by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, calling for the federal government to do more to stop illegal caller ID spoofing and robocalls.

The phone rings and rings and rings. The number on my caller ID looks familiar, but I know better. It is another robocall. I could scream ... and I just might! Just like every other Arkansan, I just want these calls to end immediately.

For each of the past four years, I have visited every county in Arkansas, and the most common complaint I hear is that people want these calls to stop. They are tired of the incessant and pestering robocalls and spoofing.

Spoofing is when a fake but familiar-looking number is displayed on your caller ID that tricks you into answering the call. And while these calls are frustrating for most, they are costly and dangerous for far too many of our families, friends and neighbors.

Hard-working Arkansans who spent years saving for retirement so they could travel, spoil grandkids or buy a couple of momma cows to add to their herd become prime targets for these low-life con artists. People with no values or integrity prey on those who were raised right and want to always do the right thing.

These cons make outrageous claims: "I'm calling from the IRS because you owe back taxes and law enforcement will be there to arrest you if you don't make a payment this second"; or "You haven't paid your electric bill and I'm shutting the lights off unless you pay over the phone right now." Or they take advantage of the love of family: "Grandma, this is your favorite grandchild, and I am in jail out of state and you have to pay right now to get me out of here."

As your attorney general, let me be clear: These are all scams!

Spoofing is illegal in Arkansas, but it still happens, and Arkansans feel they have no way to protect themselves. Law enforcement investigates and prosecutes these crooks routinely. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of spoofed robocalls originating out of country turns efforts to identify the source into a perpetual game of whack-a-mole as different phone numbers are continuously used. My job as attorney general is to protect Arkansans, which is why I am taking this problem directly to the providers: the telecommunication companies.

According to First Orion, a call-blocking company based in Little Rock, nearly half of all cellphone calls in the next year will come from scammers. This is unacceptable. Every telephone call passes through a telecommunication service--a "telecom.

Regulatory roadblocks had previously prevented telecoms from having the legal authority to block many illegal calls. In 2017, I successfully urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to authorize telecoms to block illegal calls from invalid numbers, unassigned numbers and numbers whose owners have requested blocking. Telecom service providers have the authority to stop these never-ending robocalls, but they are not taking the necessary steps to verify whether a number is valid or a spoof. Consumers are so fed up with these calls that they would flock to a phone company that blocked all suspected robocalls involving a spoofed caller ID.

Telecom service providers can no longer have a free pass. It's time to put pressure on these companies and demand action. Telecoms must be required to block spoofed calls automatically.

Blocking spoofed calls is one part of a multi-faceted strategic solution. During this legislative session, I am working to strengthen our state laws to silence these calls. And I am on the 37-state Robocall Technology Working Group to develop best practices for the telecom industry to prevent robocalls and prosecute the originator of these calls.

I do not dismiss the technological challenges involved in this effort. Neither do I diminish the ability of the telecoms to identify and prevent these calls. I will take all measures necessary to advocate on behalf of Arkansans to stop these calls and prosecute those responsible.

This problem is not limited to our state. There is also legislation in Congress to increase the enforcement powers of the FCC to deal with unlawful robocalls. I will remain on the front lines of this effort, pushing these measures through Congress and to President Trump's desk. I will urge the FCC to implement rules to remove obstacles that would allow telecom service providers to use new and existing technology to detect and block illegal spoofed calls.

I am taking the fight to the criminals, the telecoms, the FCC, the Department of Justice and to the White House.

Arkansans are fed up, and so am I. It is time to stop the calls.

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