Attorney General Fox Asks FCC to Let Phone Companies Do More to Block Illegal Robocalls, Including Neighbor Spoofing

Attorney General Tim Fox and a bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow telephone service providers to block more illegal spoofed calls or robocalls being made to unsuspecting consumers in Montana and across the country.

The formal comment to the FCC explains that scammers using illegal spoofed calls or robocalls have found ways to evade the FCC’s 2017 call-blocking order. Despite the order, these calls continue to be a major irritant to Montanans and people across the country. The attorneys general now seek added authority for providers to work together to detect and block more illegal spoofed calls or robocalls.

One tactic on the rise is “neighbor spoofing,” which attempts to deceive a call recipient by making the call appear to be coming from the same area code. This manipulation of caller ID information increases the likelihood that the targeted person will answer the call.

“Robocalls or spoofing calls are at best a nuisance at worst a tool for scamming Montanans,” Attorney General Fox said. “Robocalls, where the caller leaves a prerecorded message, are also illegal in Montana, and the best way to prevent them is to give service providers stronger tools for verifying the authenticity of calls.”

Fox has successfully defended Montana’s law banning robocalls in court. Victory Processing, a Michigan-based political consulting firm, sued Montana in 2017 to overturn the robocall prohibition. In February, a federal judge ruled against Victory and upheld the constitutionality of Montana’s ban. Victory then appealed to the Ninth Circuit, where Fox continues to defend against the challenge.

In the formal comment to the FCC, Fox and his colleagues support giving phone service providers the ability to authenticate legitimate calls, and identify illegally spoofed calls and block them. Service providers will be ready to launch this new authentication method in 2019.

The attorneys general comments to the FCC are available online: https://dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/FCC-2018-10-09-Comment.pdf