North Dakota rightly takes on illegal robocalls

By now, most cell phone users are familiar with robocalls – unwanted solicitations and scam attempts often originating from bogus called phone numbers that make it appear as if a neighbor is calling.

N.D. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has said these illegal robocalls were the No. 1 North Dakota consumer complaint received by his office last year. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.5 million illegal robocall complaints – two and a half times more than in 2014. The trend isn’t slowing down, despite laws restricting them because the scammers find ways around the laws and preventative systems.

This week, Stenehjem joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general calling on the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to allow telephone service providers to block more illegal robocalls being made to unsuspecting consumers in North Dakota and across the country, according to a press release.

Following an initial win for American consumers in November 2017, when the FCC granted phone service providers authority to block certain illegal spoofed robocalls, the 35 attorneys general now seek added authority for the providers to work together to detect and block more illegal spoofed robocalls – including “neighbor spoofing.” “Spoofing” allows scammers to disguise their identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to bring them to justice.

“Virtually anyone can send millions of illegal robocalls and frustrate law enforcement with just a computer, inexpensive software and an internet connection,” the attorneys general wrote in the formal comment filed with the FCC.

Dozens of state attorneys general have made similar requests.

Minot Daily News hears from a steady stream of readers who encounter spam and scam calls, including some people who have been caught up in a phone scam.

This predatory crime takes advantage of victims’ trust and good nature. Offenders should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and if possible, forced to make amends to those whom they have blatantly robbed.

Mr. Stenehjem, good luck and godspeed.