FCC partners with 7 more AGs on robocall investigations

The Federal Communications Commission is partnering with seven additional state and district Attorneys General to boost cooperation for robocall investigations.

The latest announced, under Memoranda of Understanding, include Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey and Wyoming. It increases the tally of state and federal partnerships on robocall investigations to 22. In addition, the FCC said it expanded existing MoUs with state robocall investigators in Michigan and West Virginia.

A goal of the effort is to create formal structures for sharing information cooperation as investigators at the state level and the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau investigate spoofing and robocall scam campaigns. The collaboration can help as they work to build cases and to avoid duplicating work among the different levels of government.

“The FCC and these state leaders share a common enemy: robocall scammers targeting consumers and businesses around the country,” said FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel in a statement. “My team’s commitment to protecting consumers fits hand-in-glove with state Attorneys General’s ongoing efforts to combat these scams. We share a goal – to protect consumers – and with these agreements, we can also share the tools needed to achieve it.”

Both the FCC and state investigators perform work such as obtaining records, talking to witnesses, conducting interviews, and examining consumer complaints as they build records against illegal robocallers.

As a benefit to partner states, they get added resources to support their own investigations. Along with expertise of the FCC enforcement staff that includes the agency’s assistance with relationships between state investigators and others such as other federal agencies, robocall blocking companies and support for investigative tools like subpoenas and confidential response letters from suspected robocallers, according to the FCC.

The FCC has taken a number of steps in making the scourge of robocalls a top priority, including authorizing telcos to automatically block illegal robocalls and requiring all IP voice providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication technology in their networks. Major carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon said they had implemented STIR/SHAKEN by the June 30 2021 deadline. Smaller voice providers had more time to put the technology in place.  At the end of 2021 the FCC pushed up the deadline for a subset of smaller voice providers to June 30, 2022 after determining they generate a high proportion of illegal robocall traffic.

On the enforcement front, the FCC has issued warnings to three companies in March alone to stop facilitating illegal robocall traffic within 48 hours, including Airespring, Hello Hello Miami, and thinQ. If recipients don’t abide, downstream voice providers would be authorized to block all traffic from those companies altogether. Earlier this year it issued a cease-and-desist letters to Great Choice Telecom and TCA Voip

According to the FCC website, recipients of warnings and cease-and-desist letters have responded and committed to take actions to stop robocalls from traversing their networks.

As for the kinds of scams the FCC is receiving the most complaints for, auto warranty scams topped the list in 2021. The agency said the number rose from close to 7,600 in 2020 to more than 12,000 in 2021. Auto warranty scams were followed by credit and credit card robocalls, fake insurance and healthcare, and phony lawsuit and criminal charges. Rounding out the top five last year were social security phishing scams, which the FCC said fell by around 60% in 2021.

Still robocalls continue to be a major issue for consumers. According to the YouMail Robocall Index, 7.7 billion robocalls were placed so far in 2022, with an estimated 50.5 billion in 2021.