SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has joined 29 other state attorneys general in supporting a Federal Communications Commission proposal to allow telephone companies to block robocalls made from spoofed numbers.
Spoofed calls are those that show a fake caller identification phone number, such as a number that has a nonexistent area code or has never been assigned to an particular subscriber.
Becerra said in a statement Wednesday, "Robocalls made from fake numbers are more than just a nuisance - they're illegal.
"We should be doing everything in our power to eliminate these types of calls, which far too often lead to identify theft and financial loss," he said.
The FCC proposal, announced March 23, would allow telephone companies to block spoofing phone calls that show an originating phone number that could not possibly be legal because the supposed area code does not exist or the phone number has not been assigned.
The proposed rules would in effect allow an exception to another FCC rule that requires telephone companies to complete calls made on their services.
Becerra and the other attorneys general said in their comment letter that they strongly support the proposal.
"The rules are a step in a positive direction for the FCC and for consumers, as they will reduce the ability of scammers to spoof real and fake numbers, and increase the ability of law enforcement to track down scammers," the state lawyers wrote.
The letter was sent on Monday, the deadline for initial public comment on the proposal. Replies to those comments are due on July 31. For more information, visit the FCC web page on the proposal at https://www.fcc.gov/fcc-facilitate-blocking-illegal-robocalls.
The proposed rules were developed in conjunction with an industry Robocall Strike Task Force created in 2016.
The FCC said when it announced the proposed rules that U.S. consumers received about 2.4 billion robocalls per month in 2016, of which a number were calls with fake caller ID.
It said that more than 10,000 people have been victims of calls in which the caller pretends to come from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and claims back taxes are owed. The victims lost $54 million.
The FCC also proposed to allow subscribers to ask telephone companies to block calls that falsely appear to come from one of the subscriber's numbers. For example, the IRS could seek to block calls that falsely appear to come from internal IRS numbers that are not used for outside calls.
The FCC said a pilot project blocking spoofing calls from internal IRS phone numbers reduced IRS scam calls by about 90 percent in the third quarter of 2016.
The agency also asked for comment on ways to thwart robocalls that come from overseas.
Becerra said Wednesday that "the proposed rules are a good, but modest first step toward protecting consumers," but urged the FCC to do more.
He said the agency should allow individual subscribers, in addition to telephone companies, to block numbers.
Other states whose top lawyers signed the letter are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
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