Phone service providers, Ohio Attorney General’s Office working to protect customers from illegal robocalls

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Twelve telephone service providers have agreed to adopt anti-robocall practices as part of an initiative with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

The providers have agreed to help protect customers  from illegal robocalls, as well as make it easier for authorities to investigate and prosecute bad actors, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Thursday.

“This agreement brings phone service providers on board as critical allies in our fight against illegal robocalls,” Yost said. “By adopting these commonsense business practices, service providers will reinforce our ongoing efforts to crack down on this growing nuisance.”

The phone service providers that joined the initiative are AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon and Windstream.

Under the agreement, they can take the following steps to prevent robocalls:

  • Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers.
  • Providing customers with free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools.
  • Implementing technology to verify that calls are coming from a valid source.
  • Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic.

The companies have also agreed to assist authorities with ant-robocall enforcement by investigating and taking action against suspicious callers, tracing the origins of illegal robocalls, knowing who their customers are and by requiring companies with which they contract to cooperate and trace back identification.

"We certainly hope this initiative to try and block those types of calls can work. It sounds promising. Most of the cell phone service providers are on board, so that's very exciting," said Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.

Locally, Sheriff Sigsworth said Saturday that some of the callers set up to scam elderly people by saying they need money to get their grandson out of jail.

Adding that some scammers have added a new twist in which the caller spoofs a police department, earning victims' trust by saying they can call the police back. Then, the scammer answers the call, claiming to be the police department.

"Some people have been taken for tens and tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes they're embarrassed and they don't call for weeks. By then they have more damage done to their credit," Sheriff Sigsworth said.

Going forward, the phone companies will stay in close communication with the coalition of 50 attorneys general to ensure that robocall protections develop as technology and scam tactics change.

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