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Phone companies to fight robocalls and cell scams in agreement with attorneys general from all 50 states

2019-08-24

(Getty Images)

ALBANY — They can hear you now.

A coalition of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies have committed to combating the growing scourge of annoying robocalls and cell phone scams, Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday.

The companies vowed to work attorneys general from all 50 state in an effort to prevent illegal automated voice calls on their networks and will cooperate with state law enforcement investigating the unwanted calls’ origins.

“The bad actors running these deceptive operations will soon have one call left to make: to their lawyers,” James said. “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."

A dozen phone firms, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, have agreed to adopt principles that will help protect phone users and make it easier for Attorneys General nationwide to investigate and prosecute bad actors, James added.

The companies will implement call-blocking technology at no cost to customers, allow free access to call blocking and labeling tools, implement technology to authenticate calls are coming from a valid source and monitor networks for robocall traffic.

They have also agreed to investigate and take action against suspicious callers and trace the origins of illegal robocalls.

The plague of phone scams has reached epic proportions in recent years.

Last year there were about 48 billion robocalls made in the United States, according to YouMail, a robocall-blocking service. An independent study using data from the Federal Trade Commission found that New Yorkers made the fourth highest number of robocall complaints nationwide in 2018.

“The days of preying upon, misleading, and taking advantage of individuals throughout our state and this country will soon be numbered,” James said.

The move comes a month after the Federal Communications Commission set new rules designed to empower phone carriers to block robocalls by default. The FCC is also working on banning “spoofing,” which allows callers to make it appear that they’re calling from a different number than they really are.

Calls to outlaw robo-scams in the Empire State went unanswered earlier this year.

A measure known as the Robocall Prevention Act that would have prohibited any person or entity from making robocalls to any telephone number owned by a New Yorker failed to pass the state Assembly.