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We applaud the work of the attorneys general from every state and a dozen phone companies to reach an agreement to help fight illegal robocalls.

Robocalls, automated telephone calls that deliver a recorded message, have become a national epidemic, with Americans getting nearly 5 billion automated calls from scammers, telemarketers, debt collectors and others every month, according to The Associated Press.

"Robocall scams are not simply an annoyance -- they are illegal, and they are used to take advantage of our seniors and other vulnerable populations," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. "I've heard the people of Pennsylvania loud and clear that they want action. I'm proud to stand with my colleague attorneys general and major telecom companies in announcing this ringing success in the fight against illegal robocalls.

"I look forward to continuing to work together to combat this issue and deliver results for Pennsylvania consumers."

Under the deal announced last week, the phone companies -- AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream ­-- have agreed to take steps to help in the prevention and enforcement of illegal robocalls.

According to Shapiro, phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:

• Offering call blocking services for all types of telephone customers at no cost to the customer.

• Offering free, easy-to-use labeling tools for smartphone mobile and voice-over-internet-protocol residential customers.

• Implementing technology to authenticate that callers are coming from a valid source.

• Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic.

Phone companies will assist attorneys general with anti-robocall enforcement by:

• Knowing who their commercial customers are so bad actors using the phone company's network can be identified and investigated.

• Investigating and taking action against suspicious callers, including notifying law enforcement and state attorneys general.

• Working with law enforcement to trace the origins of illegal robocalls.

• Requiring other service providers with which the phone companies contract to cooperate in traceback identification.

For Shapiro, combating robocalls in Pennsylvania is nothing new. In May, he led a bipartisan coalition of 42 attorneys general in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to take further action to stop the proliferation of illegal robocalls and spoofing. This month, the FCC adopted new rules banning malicious caller ID spoofing of text messages and foreign calls.

In June 2017, Shapiro urged the FCC to adopt rules to allow telephone providers to block illegal robocalls coming from certain types of phone numbers, and later that year, the FCC issued the 2017 Call Blocking Order.

While it is too early to tell what impact the actions from this latest agreement will have on the robocall problem, most will agree that they are major steps in the right direction.

-- Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Penn.


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