Proposed new rules would ban foreign scam robocalls and robotexts

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed adoption of new rules banning malicious caller ID spoofing of text messages and international calls.  The Chairman’s proposal follows a bipartisan statement from more than 40 state attorneys general for the FCC to adopt these new rules and continue its “multi-pronged approach to battle the noxious intrusion of illegal robocalls, as well as malicious caller ID spoofing.”  The Commission will vote on these new rules at its Aug. 1 meeting.

“Scammers often robocall us from overseas, and when they do, they typically spoof their numbers to try and trick consumers,” said Chairman Pai.  “Call center fraudsters often pretend to be calling from trusted organizations and use pressure tactics to steal from Americans.  We must attack this problem with every tool we have.  With these new rules, we’ll close the loopholes that hamstring law enforcement when they try to pursue international scammers and scammers using text messaging.”

As the bipartisan group of more than 40 state attorneys general told the Commission in May, “The proposed rule changes would broaden the authority of the Commission to hold these criminals accountable for the significant harm they inflict on U.S. consumers.  As State Attorneys General on the front lines fighting these scammers, we are acutely aware that many of these calls are coming from criminals, located overseas, utilizing caller ID spoofing, and we are also seeing more scams being perpetrated via text message, as contemplated in the RAY BAUM’S Act.”

The FCC received more than 35,000 complaints about caller ID spoofing in the first six months of 2019 alone.  The new rules would ensure that the agency can to bring enforcement actions.

The Truth in Caller ID Act prohibits anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information (“spoofing”) with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value.  However, until passage of the RAY BAUM’S Act last year, the Truth in Caller ID Act did not extend to text messages or international calls.  If adopted at the Commission’s August Open Meeting, the Chairman’s proposed new rules would implement this legislation and extend these prohibitions to text messages, calls originating from outside the United States to recipients within the United States, and additional types of voice calls, such as one-way interconnected VoIP calls.

Pai has made combating scam robocalls the FCC’s top consumer protection priority.  This is the latest step in a long line of FCC efforts to address this problem.  The agency has empowered robocall and robotext blocking services, pursued strong enforcement actions, authorized the creation of a database to reduce calls to reassigned numbers, and pushed for improved caller ID authentication standards—including a June 2019 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to lay the groundwork for mandating adoption of the standards if the Chairman’s 2019 deadline isn’t met.

The state attorneys general letter was signed by officials from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

It was filed as a formal comment in the FCC’s open proceeding and is extensively cited in the draft order.

The letter is available at: