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Attorney General Ellison investigating companies responsible for foreign robocalls

Multistate investigation is first action of new nationwide, bipartisan Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force

 

August 3, 2022



August 2, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Ellison today announced that he has joined a multistate investigation into 20 so-called gateway providers that are allegedly responsible for enabling much of the robocall traffic in the United States. The investigation is the first action of the newly-formed Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force of 50 attorneys general, including Attorney General Ellison. The purpose of the bipartisan Task Force is to investigate and take legal action against the telecommunications companies responsible for enabling robocalls in the United States. The Task Force has one goal: to cut down on illegal robocalls.

“Everybody hates robocalls — and everybody gets them, including me. Minnesotans file more complaints about robocalls with our office than about any other single problem. I hear the same thing from other attorneys general around the country. That’s why we’ve formed this bipartisan task force. Together, we’re taking the fight directly to anyone in the telecom industry who helps robocallers and scammers perpetrate their fraud on the public,” Attorney General Ellison said.

“I encourage anyone who receives a scam robocall to make a note of the number and report it to my office, because it will help us trace those numbers back and hold accountable those responsible for enabling scammers,” Attorney General Ellison continued. “And if you’ve been scammed, don’t be ashamed, because these scammers are professionals who are very good at what they do. And don’t stay silent, because that’s what scammers want you to do. Instead, report it to my office: we may be able to help you, and by reporting it, you will help us get to the root of the problem and stop it.”

The Task Force has issued 20 civil investigative demands to 20 gateway providers allegedly responsible for enabling significant volumes of robocall traffic. Gateway providers are companies that sell access to the U.S. telephone network. They have a responsibility to ensure the phone numbers they sell to their customers will be used legally, but these providers are not taking sufficient action to stop robocall traffic. In many cases, they appear to be intentionally turning a blind eye in return for steady revenue and are unscrupulously selling phone numbers to robocall scammers. The Task Force will focus on the bad actors in the telecommunications industry in order both to help reduce the number robocalls that Minnesotans receive and to encourage the companies that are following the rules.

Attorney General Ellison’s announcement of the investigation and his joining the Task Force of 50 attorneys general is the latest in a series of actions he has taken since 2019 to fight robocalls. These include joining 51 attorneys general in a 2019 compact with 12 major phone providers to provide consumers with free call blocking and implement a protocol, known as STIR/SHAKEN, that keeps a robocaller or a spammer from getting through if a consumer has blocked them and keeps them from spoofing someone else’s number to get through to a consumer. Attorney General Ellison has also asked the FCC to support new restrictions on and oversight of providers of domestic telephone numbers.

The scourge of robocalls and how to avoid them

Attorney General Ellison is committed to stopping illegal and unwanted robocalls. According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, over 33 million scam robocalls are made to Americans every day. These scam calls include Social Security Administration fraud against seniors, Amazon scams against consumers, and many other scams targeting all consumers, including those who are most vulnerable. Scammers stole an estimated $29.8 billion dollars through scam calls in 2021 alone.

While much of this scam robocall traffic originates overseas, the Task Force is focused on shutting down the domestic providers that profit from this illegal scam traffic and refuse to take steps to otherwise mitigate these scam calls.

Attorney General Ellison offers the following tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls:

• If you suspect fraudulent activity, immediately hang up and do not provide any personal information.

• Be wary of callers who specifically ask you to pay by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. For example, the Internal Revenue Service does not accept payment in iTunes gift cards.

• Look out for prerecorded calls from imposters posing as government agencies. Typically, the Social Security Administration does not make phone calls to individuals.

Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesotans who have received scam robocalls or been victimized by them to contact or file a complaint with his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro area), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota) or online.

Don’t hang on — hang up

“Above all, don’t hang on — hang up,” Attorney General Ellison said. “We Minnesotans are polite folks who don’t like hanging up on others, even when they’re being rude or we suspect they’re trying to scam us. But scammers don’t deserve our politeness or respect, so protect yourself and your family and hang up immediately.”

 

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