Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
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Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES FIGHT TO EXPAND ILLEGAL ROBOCALL RESPONSE
~ Bipartisan coalition of attorneys general send USTelecom letter outlining plan to strengthen illegal robocall enforcement ~
RICHMOND (May 4, 2020) – Attorney General Herring has joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general in calling on USTelecom – the leading organization representing telecommunications providers – and its Industry Traceback Group (ITG) to continue its collaboration with state attorneys general by bolstering technological capabilities to improve enforcement against illegal robocallers. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are urging the association to further develop robocall traceback and other tools suited to law enforcement needs.
"Unfortunately, robocalls have become a daily annoyance for a majority of Virginians and oftentimes they are not only annoying but they can scam people out of hundreds or thousands of dollars,” said Attorney General Herring. "The more tools and technology my fellow attorneys general and I have to put a stop to these annoying and illegal calls the safer our citizens will be from these scammers.”
In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues ask USTelecom to advance the ITG's abilities in identifying robocall campaigns, trends and business ecosystems; conducting automated traceback investigations; and coordinating with relevant law enforcement agencies.
A key part of that action would be for USTelecom to develop and roll out an online platform to collect live data from carriers and robocall-blocking apps. When USTelecom or a law enforcement agency detects an illegal robocall campaign, the law enforcement agency would then be able to submit a subpoena to USTelecom in a streamlined online portal.
The process would allow for rapid review by USTelecom and provide law enforcement agencies the ability to expedite subpoena procedures and access the platform to quickly retrieve relevant data. The platform would bolster law enforcement investigations and could potentially lead to attorneys general offices issuing temporary restraining orders that could stop a live robocall campaign in its tracks.
The coalition's letter follows a January 2020 meeting in Washington, D.C., with representatives from state attorneys general offices, federal agencies and the telecom industry. Some priorities developed at that meeting include:
• Automating and increasing the total volume of traceback investigations;
• Alerting relevant law enforcement agencies of suspected illegal robocall campaigns;
• Enabling law enforcement agencies to electronically upload and receive responses to subpoenas and civil investigative demands, and providing swift response to those requests; and
• Identifying noncooperative Voice Service Providers, including those that don't participate in the traceback process, repeatedly originate or accept illegal robocalls, or repeatedly fail to provide sufficient records.
The coalition believes these measures would strengthen the partnership between the USTelecom-backed ITG and attorneys general, a relationship that led to the creation of the Anti-Robocall Principles. Those principles were established in August 2019 when 51 attorneys general and 12 major telecom providers took aim at reducing the number of unwanted and illegal robocalls reaching the American people.
More recently – and due in part to the support from the telecommunications industry and state attorneys general – the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act was signed into law by the federal government. This law enables the industry to develop call-authentication protocols to combat caller-ID spoofing and implement other sweeping anti-robocall measures.
In 2019 alone, Virginians received at least 1.56 billion robocalls. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Virginia was the 8th highest state in the nation for Do Not Call Registry complaints with 178,717 complaints in 2019. Additionally, Virginians made more than 125,000 complaints to the FTC about robocalls alone, up from more than 118,000 complaints in 2018. Americans received at least 58.5 billion robocalls in 2019, an increase of 22% from 47.8 billion robocalls in 2018.
Last week, Attorney General Herring announced that he had reached a settlement with two Roanoke-based telemarketing companies, and Roanoke resident Bryant Cass, for illegal robocalling and deceptive sale practices. Attorney General Herring filed suit against the two companies and Cass last summer, alleging that they made hundreds of thousands of unsolicited robocalls nationwide pitching car selling services to people who listed cars for sale on Craigslist, Autotrader.com, or similar sites. As part of the settlement agreement, Cass will pay $300,000 in restitution that will go back to consumers who were affected by his telemarketing, sales or refund practices. Additionally, Cass has been banned from engaging or participating in telephone solicitations for five years and has been permanently banned from illegal telemarketing and robocalling. The companies have ceased operations and are no longer in business.
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today's letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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