New agreement establishes data sharing, investigative partnerships
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced a new partnership with the Federal Communications Commission, establishing critical information sharing and structures for cooperation in investigating robocall scams.
“Robocall scammers should be on notice that we are constantly expanding our resources and expertise — Washingtonians are not easy targets,” Ferguson said. “I’m proud to partner with our federal colleagues to coordinate our fight against illegal robocalls. If robocalls are harassing you, please file a complaint with my office.”
“The FCC and state leaders share a common enemy: robocall scammers targeting consumers and businesses around the country,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “My team’s commitment to protecting consumers fits hand-in-glove with state Attorneys Generals’ ongoing efforts to combat these scams. We share a goal – to protect consumers – and agreements like this, we can also share the tools needed to achieve it.”
During investigations, both the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and state investigators seek records, talk to witnesses, interview targets, examine consumer complaints and take other critical steps to build a record against possible bad actors. These partnerships can provide critical resources for building cases and preventing duplicative efforts in protecting consumers and businesses nationwide.
The new partnership allows Washington and the FCC to share staff expertise, as well as federal resources to support state investigations. The information sharing will ensure Washington gets what it needs to for its investigations; while at the same time, providing the FCC with information about Washington consumer complaints may lead to the bureau issuing cease and desist letters to voice service providers that transmit illegal robocalls on their networks.
The memorandum of understanding is a continuation of the Attorney General’s work to stop illegal robocalls. In March, Ferguson announced a new complaint form to enhance tracking and data collection of robocalls to Washingtonians, as well as a new website to educate and protect the public. In the past two years, Ferguson filed three lawsuits aimed at holding illegal robocallers accountable.
- In October 2021, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a Corvallis, Ore.-based company, Global Grid Telecom, and its owner for illegally robocalling Washingtonians more than 54,000 times with deceptive recorded messages. Ironically, the calls attempted to sell a purported robocall-blocking service. The case is ongoing.
- In March 2021, two companies that made more than 1.7 million robocalls into Washington paid $495,000 to legitimate charities as a result of a lawsuit by Ferguson, 39 other attorneys general and the FTC.
- In August 2020, as a result of the Attorney General’s lawsuit, a King County Superior Court judge ordered Vancouver, Wash.-based air duct cleaning companies and their owner to pay civil penalties of $10 million. US Air Ducts & Sky Builders and DLM Services Inc. made over 13 million robocalls within Washington state from 2017 to 2019, including calling more than 500 individual Washingtonians over 100 times.
If you suspect you have received an illegal robocall, click here to report it: https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/robocallForm.aspx.
More information on robocalls and telemarketing scams is available here: https://www.atg.wa.gov/robocall-and-telemarketing-scams
Signs of a scam
- Caller asks for personal information. A legitimate caller should never ask for your password, social security number or bank account number. Scammers ask for your personal information to steal your money or identity.
- An offer that seems too good to be true. If the message on the call advertises something for free or at low cost, it is likely a scam.
- Request payment other than credit card. Scammers usually ask for payment with a gift card, online money transfer or other payment method that is hard to track. Resist any pressure to send immediate payment, or hang up.
- Threats, scare tactics. Some robocallers threaten individuals with cutting off their utilities, filing legal complaints against them or other actions to get them to send in money or call them back. The government or a legitimate business will generally send a letter if there is a legal issue or a problem with an account.
What to do if you suspect a robocall scam
- Do not trust your Caller ID. Scammers can fake, or “spoof,” the name and number that appears on your caller ID, making it look like the call is from an unknown number, legitimate business, government agency or local number.
- Do not answer the call. If you do not recognize a phone number, you can let the call go to voicemail.
- Hang up. If you answer a call and it seems like it is a robocall, hang up immediately.
- Do not pay for or accept any offers. Scammers will try to pressure you to make a decision without doing any research or talking to friends or family who may help identify a scam. Don't make any decisions under pressure.
- Resist the urge to call back or confront the caller. Individuals who call robocallers or scammers back can end up on a list of people who answer the calls then get more calls.
- Block. You can call your telephone service provider to see what options are available to block phone numbers associated with robocalls and telemarketing scams.
- Report. Report any robocalls or other suspicious calls you receive to the Attorney General’s Office.
Some robocalls may give you an option to opt out of receiving future calls, but if the caller is a scammer, they are unlikely to honor your request. However, you can add your number to the national “Do Not Call” registry (https://www.donotcall.gov/) to reduce the number of annoying telemarketing calls.
A few types of robocalls are allowed without permission. These include political calls about candidates, charities asking for donations or any message that is purely informational, like calls about a flight status or school closure.
Some robocalls or telemarketers may come from legitimate charitable organizations, but it is wise to contact the Washington Secretary of State's Charitable Division at 1-800-332-4483, or visit their website, to make sure any charity is registered with the state before you give money or credit card information.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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