Robocall Report Taskforce
If you own a phone, you’ve probably been annoyed by unending robocalls.
In 2019, our office received more complaints about robocalls than any other issue. North Carolinians are receiving spam calls at all hours of the day, on our cell phones and landlines. They’re not only frustrating, they’re also scamming people out of their hard-earned money.
What We’re Doing
The North Carolina Department of Justice launched Operation Silver Shield in January 2020 to double down on our work to protect seniors from scams and fraud. Because we know many scams start with a phone call, we’re working hard to confront these insidious robocalls.
Attorney General Stein’s plan to address these harmful calls comes from two directions. First, he’s been working with phone service providers to strengthen their protections. Second, our office is actively investigating several of these bad actors and will bring legal action when appropriate to stop robocalls and the scammers who make them.
While we wish we could solve this problem overnight, robocalls are pervasive and scammers are creative. It will take hard work and partnership to end these harmful and irritating calls. We’re doing everything we can to take them on in 2020.
Advocating for Stronger Protections
In August 2019 Attorney General Stein led a coalition that included every attorney general in the country and 12 major phone companies to create the national Anti-Robocall Principles to fight illegal robocalls. Through these eight principles, the phone companies – AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, Twilio, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, Wabash Communications and Windstream – have committed to addressing the robocall problem by developing technology to screen calls and by cooperating with law enforcement.
These principles are a major step forward in addressing robocalls.
If you’d like to view your phone service provider’s progress on implementing these principles, click here.
Pallone-Thune TRACED Act
In March 2019, Attorney General Josh Stein led a coalition of attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to urge the United States Senate to enact bipartisan legislation. The legislation would address concerns raised by federal regulators, voice service providers, private businesses, consumer advocacy groups, and other interested parties to combat illegal robocalls and spoofing. The legislation would also further enable the telecom industry, federal regulators, and state Attorney Generals to take meaningful steps to stop the scourge of these illegal and unwanted robocalls.
By the end of the year, Congress had passed the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act or the “Pallone-Thune TRACED Act” for short, which was signed into law just before New Year’s 2019.
Industry Traceback Group
Over this past year, we have also worked with USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group (the ITG). ITG is a collective of telecom industry providers that actively traces and identifies the source of illegal robocalls and shares that information with law enforcement. As a result of our work, state Attorneys General are getting more updates and more detailed information about robocall scammers across the country.
Additionally, the ITG’s policies and procedures released in January 2020 further require, as a condition of attaining ITG highest “Steering Committee Member” designation, that a voice service provider “agree to adhere to the principles contained in the State Attorneys General Anti-Robocall Principles” and “ensure that the ITG Member and all of its Affiliates adhere to the State AG Anti-Robocall Principles.”
Robocall Technologies Working Group
North Carolina leads the 44-state members Robocall Technologies Working Group. Over the last two years, our group has met with a number of voice service providers to learn more about how the companies were addressing the issue of robocalls. This allows state Attorney Generals the opportunity to better understand the technology that is involved in combating robocallers.
This coalition of state Attorneys General has built partnerships with our federal agency counterparts and with members of the telecom industry. This team approach helps us get the right information into the right hands so we can to locate the bad actors perpetrating these scam calls.
Investigating and Taking Legal Action
These scammers are breaking the law. Using information reported to our office from North Carolinians and the phone service providers, our office will be able to take legal action against these scammers. We currently have investigations underway and are soliciting information to launch more. We have had great success in working with the Industry Traceback Group improving the process and allowing us to be able to more readily identify targets for enforcement. You can learn more about this effort here.
“Robocalls are a scourge – at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I will do everything in my power to track down scammers and fraudsters so that we can keep them from preying on people.”
In August 2019, Attorney General Josh Stein led a coalition of 51 Attorneys General to file comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the FCC to take action if major voice service providers did not voluntarily implement the STIR/SHAKEN Caller ID authentication framework—which would help identify the true source of a call—by the end of 2019.
In the last year-and-a-half, Attorney General Josh Stein has continued to urge the FCC to take additional action. He’s advocated for rules that would help to combat caller ID spoofing originating outside the United States and caller ID spoofing using alternative voice and text messaging services, and to support the FCC’s efforts to identify new ways to enable providers to block illegal calls before they ever reach consumers.
What can you do?
We need your help. We can’t investigate these robocallers without you. Please visit www.ncdoj.gov/norobo to report the calls you receive. We will share your information with our federal enforcement agency partners and, with enough information about the call, launch an investigation to identify who is making the calls.
Tips for Dealing with Robocalls
- While we are asking for you to report these calls, remember that you have no obligation to answer a call or to continue a conversation. If you have any concerns, hang up the call.
- If you want to report your robocaller, don’t give them any information about yourself. Take note of the date and time of the call and the number showing on your caller ID, and report it here.
- If you question whether the call is from a legitimate company or government organization, call the organization back at a number you look up yourself. Make sure you are disconnected before you place a call.
- Call your carrier or look online now to find out what other tools they might be able to provide to block these calls.
- Sign our petition to Stop Robocalls here.
Telemarketing con artists are creative, coming up with new tricks every day to scam unsuspecting North Carolina residents. The callers prey on anyone who answers a phone, but especially seniors and others who have responded to phony sweepstakes or other scams before. Below are examples of scams we know have been used frequently against seniors and have been successful for fraudulent telemarketers. These examples will give you an idea of the tricks they play.
“Grandma/Grandpa, It’s Me!”
A young caller begins their conversation, “Grandma (or Grandpa), it’s me! Don’t you know who this is?” If you volunteer the name of a grandchild, the caller adopts that name and then pretends to need assistance. The caller begs “please don’t tell my parents” because they say they’ve been arrested, hospitalized, had a car wreck or gotten in trouble. The fake grandchild then sends a friend to your home to pick up cash or a check or asks you to wire them money. Losses can range from $200 to $20,000. If you wire money, another scammer may call pretending to be a jailer or attorney, requesting more money for bail or fines.
Recent victims of this scam have stated that the callers knew detailed information about their grandchildren or other family members, information possibly shared by family members on websites such as Facebook.
Sweetheart Scams (Internet and Telephone)
You are contacted by someone (often from overseas) who has seen the personal information you posted on a social networking or dating website. The “sweetheart” uses email and phone conversations to strike up a friendship which eventually blooms into a romance. Once you are sufficiently smitten, your new love interest pretends to be in the hospital or in jail overseas and asks you to wire money to them, often repeatedly. Learn more about sweetheart scams.
Utility Company Cut-off Scam
You are contacted by an individual who presents himself as a utility company employee. The phony utility agent claims that your water, gas or electric bill is past due and that your service is about to be cut off. You can prevent disconnection by paying your bill and late charges. If the scammer is standing at your front door, he will accept cash or a check. If he has called you on the telephone, you can pay by providing your checking account or credit card number.
Predatory Mortgage Lending
An unscrupulous mortgage lender offers you a loan to consolidate your debts, help your grandchildren go to college, or pay for home improvements. But the loan is a bad deal for you because it includes a high interest rate, expensive fees for unnecessary options like credit life insurance or disability insurance, brokerage commissions, “points” and origination costs.
Your loan terms may also include a balloon payment so that the entire amount of the mortgage loan is due after just a few years. At that point the lender may offer to refinance the loan, claiming this will lower payments. Instead, more fees get tacked on to the loan.
The end result is that you can quickly lose most of the equity in your home (a process known as equity stripping) while continuing to face high payments for what might have originally been a modest mortgage loan. Predatory mortgage loans often target seniors whose home mortgages have already been paid off. Learn more about predatory lending.
Driveway Paving Scam
A paving contractor knocks on your door. He says his crew just finished paving another driveway in the neighborhood. He claims to have some leftover paving material and offers an excellent deal on paving your driveway. The driveway is coated with an oily substance or a very thin layer of asphalt. Not long after you pay $3,000 – $6,000 for your driveway, the new surface crumbles or washes away. This scam is perpetrated by roving contractors who strike an area and move on quickly. Learn more about home repair scams.
Do you have questions about your rights? Our Public Protection section can help answer your questions at (919) 716-6780 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Public Protection section experts are also available for presentations and would love to come and speak to your community. You can schedule a presentation by email at email@example.com or by phone at (919) 716-6780.