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Attorney General Bonta Urges FCC to Take Aggressive Action to Prevent Illegal Robocallers From Shielding Their Identity

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take a broad range of actions to prevent scammers from remaining anonymous when they place illegal robocalls. Earlier this year, Attorney General Bonta encouraged the FCC to accelerate the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, a caller ID framework that is critical to detecting and blocking robocalls with “spoofed” caller IDs. With the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, however, bad actors have begun looking for other ways to conceal their identities, including purchasing or renting legitimate telephone numbers in order to make their calls look like they are coming from legitimate sources. In today’s comments, the coalition expresses their strong support for new FCC policies designed to prevent these scammers from circumventing STIR/SHAKEN caller authentication and urges the FCC to take further aggressive action to protect Americans from harmful robocalls. 

“For many Californians, robocalls are a daily, if not an hourly, source of frustration — and unfortunately for some, an interaction with a robocaller may lead to devastating financial harm,” said Attorney General Bonta. “While we’ve made important progress in recent years, particularly with the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN call authentication, there’s still much work to be done. When Californians pick up the phone, they should be able to feel confident about the identity of the person on the other end of the line. The FCC must take aggressive action to stop robocall scammers from circumventing STIR/SHAKEN protections by purchasing or renting legitimate phone numbers.” 

For Californians, the impact of illegal and unwanted robocalls can range from a momentary nuisance to serious fraud involving identity theft or life-changing financial losses. Phone calls and texts are by far the most common contact method for fraud, and in 2020 alone, fraudulent phone calls led to more than $500 million in reported financial losses nationwide. A scammer’s ability to anonymously access legitimate phone numbers significantly increases the likelihood that a scammer will be able to successfully defraud consumers. 

As new technologies like STIR/SHAKEN call authentication make it more difficult for scammers to remain hidden when they place illegal robocalls, scammers are increasingly relying on purchasing or renting legitimate phone numbers instead of spoofing caller IDs in order to conceal their identities when initiating, originating, and routing high volumes of illegal and fraudulent robocalls. In today’s comments, the bipartisan coalition expresses their support for the FCC’s proposals to address this attempt to circumvent STIR/SHAKEN protections, and urges the FCC to take further, aggressive action to restrict robocallers’ ability to shield their identities and exploit consumers’ trust in our telephone system.

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter.

A copy of the letter is available here.