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New push to prevent illegal robocalls

30 AG's urge government to adopt new rules
Posted: 6:18 PM, Jul 06, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-06 18:18:52-04

Thirty Attorneys General, including Maryland's, are urging the federal government to crackdown on illegal robocalls.

The bi-partisan group sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission on Monday advocating for new rules.

The FCC recently proposed allowing telephone providers to block calls coming from invalid numbers and unallocated numbers. Currently, telecommunications companies face regulatory roadblocks when attempting to take action against illegal robocalls.

Even though consumers are still bombarded with pre-recorded calls, the Federal Trade Commission said the Do Not Call registry is working.

“The Do Not Call list does work. And it works really well to prevent legitimate telemarketers from calling you.  I know it's hard to believe but if you weren't registered for the do not call list, you would actually be getting more phone calls than you are right now,” said Janice Kopec, the Do Not Call Program Manager at the FTC.

However, the list does nothing for those who are not willing to follow the rules. The FTC reported a nearly 50 percent increase in complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls since 2015.

Scammers are also getting craftier in tricking consumers to answer their phones. They use a technique called spoofing.

“So you can be fooled into picking it up thinking its your pharmacy or your school. You can no longer rely on the caller ID to let you know if the call is safe or not,” Kopec said.

And once the person answers, the recorded message is often a scam.

“And if they say press 1 to unsubscribe, all you're doing is activating and saying to them, the robocall company, this is an active phone line and they will call you again and again and again,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO with the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland.

Barnett said the people spoofing consumers are not legitimate businesses.

“They're usually not from the United States, they don't care about the laws and regulations,” said Barnett.

Which is why officials are turning to telephone providers to put an end to some of the calls.

“The carriers are able to recognize some of the numbers they can tell the number's assigned to someone else and so they'll be able to stop some of the spoofed calls,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

It's not a guaranteed solution but the new rules may be enough to repress the ringing.

“There's too many people who have been ripped off, cheated, who've lost hundreds or thousands of dollars to these folks and anything that we can do to stop it is important,” Fosh said.

It might take several months for the FCC to approve the new rules. In the meantime, there are a number of call-blocking apps that consumers can download.

RELATED:  Top apps to block robocalls from your cell phone

Several cell phone providers have also designed apps for their customers. Most apps are free, however, Verizon customers will have to pay an extra $2.99 a month to use the service.

If you have a Matter for Mallory, she wants to hear from you. You can email her at Mallory@wmar.com.