AGs Press FCC to Strengthen Protections Against Foreign Robocalls

A letter sent by 51 state attorneys general asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take swift action against the rising tide of illegal foreign-based robocalls that “spoof” domestic phone numbers. The mailing explained that foreign actors access the national phone network via “gateway providers,” telecom companies that permit foreign calls to connect with domestic phone lines. 

According to California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s press release about the call to action, robocalls burden U.S. telecom providers, disrupt consumers’ daily lives, and can result in fraud. The press release said that phone calls and text messages are the most common contact methods for modern fraud. Reportedly, in 2020 alone, phony calls and texts led to more than $500 million in reported financial losses nationwide.

Bonta explained that the letter is a reply comment submitted in response to the FCC’s proposal to require gateway providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication protocol in order to verify foreign origin calls that use domestic phone numbers.

Other proposed FCC measures include robocall mitigation programs such as “‘know your customer’ requirements, timely participation in call tracebacks, and mandatory call blocking.” In the letter, the attorneys general stated their belief that these changes will lead to a significant decrease in consumer fraud and greater consumer confidence regarding spam calls, the comment explained. 

Finally, the bipartisan coalition urged the FCC to adopt a shortened implementation deadline for STIR/SHAKEN authentication, suggesting 30 days after the rule is finalized, instead of Mar. 1, 2023.

Notably, the states’ chief law enforcement officers have previously voiced concern about robocalling issues. Law Street Media reported that in November, the attorneys general commented on similar proposals by the FCC, though not specifically concerning foreign origin robocalls.