CHARLESTON – Very few issues today bring people of all political views together like robocalls.
Is anyone immune from getting these calls? No.
These infuriating, maddening and bothersome calls ring on every one of our phones, including mine. They are terribly annoying.
But these calls are more than an aggravation – they are dangerous. That is because oftentimes the caller is a thief attempting to steal your money and personal, identifiable information.
Last year, Americans received almost 18 billion scam robocalls, reportedly costing consumers $488 million – this represented a 57-percent increase in the number of calls from 2017.
This is why my office initiated discussions this year with phone companies, consumers, the federal government and many experts to address this issue. Our meetings were designed to obtain commitments from phone carriers to advance the deployment of scam blocking technology.
A short time later, we joined attorneys general from every state and 12 phone companies in reaching an agreement to attack the root causes of robocalls.
Our bipartisan, public-private agreement will result in the phone companies adopting eight principles to fight illegal robocalls. This will protect consumers and make it easier for attorneys general and law enforcement to investigate and prosecute bad actors.
These principles include call authentication and labeling, call blocking and other measures that will drastically cut back on “spoofing” and other tricks spammers use to deceive unwitting consumers.
Our same, bipartisan coalition of attorneys general urged the Federal Communications Commission to stand firm in pushing phone companies to implement call blocking and call authentication solutions. This includes new protocols to reduce the total number of scam robocalls.
Additionally, our office has pressed Congress to pass the TRACED Act. Similar to other initiatives, the legislation will require phone companies to do more to block unwanted calls and creates a framework to hold telemarketers and robocallers accountable.
We have also collaborated with the Federal Trade Commission in raising public awareness as to the dangers of robocalls.
Taken together, these are major steps forward, but eradicating these terrible calls will require more work. Our team continues to work with smaller companies in West Virginia so that every telecommunications provider is brought into the fold of compliance.
Sadly, scammers will do whatever it takes as long as just a handful of people can be duped into providing personal, identifiable information.
We urge you to take steps to protect yourself. Most importantly, do not answer a call from a number you do not recognize, even if it comes from a West Virginia area code. Scammers can call from anywhere in the world and make it seem like the call originates next door.
Every month, our office hears from hundreds of West Virginians about a mindboggling range of impersonation calls with fraudsters claiming to represent Social Security, IRS, utilities, Medicare and even grandchildren.
We must turn that trend around.
We need fewer calls getting through, not more. Because of our combined efforts and the preventative actions of every consumer, I feel confident that we can put a significant dent in the number of illegal robocalls and help West Virginia reach its full potential.
Morrisey, a Republican, is West Virginia's Attorney General.