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tv   Combating Illegal Robocalls  CSPAN  April 23, 2018 5:11pm-8:00pm EDT

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commission and the federal trade commission got together recently to learn about robocalls. automated telephone calls that deliver prerecorded messages to large numbers of people. officials from both agencies, along with communications analysts, talked about techniques used by te telemarketers. this is about three hours. >> good morning, everyone. and welcome to the fcc, ftc policy forum on fighting the scourge of illegal robocalls. i'm patrick weber, chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau. we're very pleased to join forces with the ftc to further the fight against illegal robocalls. and caller i.d. spoofing. unwanted calls are a major source of complaints to the fcc and ftc, and we look forward to
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the policy discussions today that will address ways to protect consumers and encourage the development of private sector solutions. this morning, we'll hear remarks from fcc and ftc leadership. we will also hear from a diverse group of speakers on three moderated panels focusing on challenges facing consumers and industry today, recent regulatory and enforcement efforts, solutions and tools for consumers. today's policy forum is being streamed live with captions on the fcc's website and will be posted for later viewing once complete. and with that, it is a great pleasure to introduce our first featured speaker, fcc chairman. ajit pai. mr. chairman? [ applause ] >> thanks so much, patrick. good morning. welcome to the fcc. thank you all for coming. i apologize at the outset. i'm in the midst of a cold. i've been alternating today between sounding like barry white and katherine hepburn. nonetheless, i will persist.
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special thanks to our co-hosts, the terrific team from the ftc. and their fearless leader, my friend, maureen ohlhausen, who i understand will be appearing by video. she's not able to be here in person today. thanks to my colleagues for being here this morning. this cross-agency event reflects the importance of the issue of unwanted robocalls. for years this has generated the most consumer complaints here at the fcc. i know that our companions have -- at the federal trade commission has gotten a lot of feedback about it as well. today's collaboration brings together not only the fcc and the ftc but also other leaders in government, private sector, and the nonprofit community. it's a group effort, one that is necessary and appropriate to tackle this challenging issue. it evokes in my mind ben franklin's famous quote upon signing the declaration of independence in 1776.
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we must indeed all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. to be sure, this is perhaps less an existential issue than the one franklin was facing, but nonetheless, the fight against unwanted robocalls requires similar unity. none of us will defeat this scourge alone. the unfortunate inventiveness of scammers, technical challenges, and the sheer volume of calls that are being unleashed on american consumers are daunting for any one entity to defeat. but working together, i think we have a better chance. here at the fcc, combatting unwanted robocalls is our top consumer protection priority. we've taken multiple steps over the past year to advance that priority. for instance, last november the fcc empowered phone companies to block calls from spoofed phone numbers that do not -- or cannot actually originate calls, such as invalid or unassigned phone numbers.
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this allows phone companies to block many scam calls before they even get to consumers. additionally, we are seeking public input on ways to help authenticate caller i.d. information. that would give each phone number a verified digital fingerprint that would give every call recipient the confidence to answer, knowing a legitimate caller was on the line. just yesterday, the fcc launched an initiative to explore the creation of a database for reassigned phone numbers, a measure that would help reduce unwanted calls to consumers. the fcc's focus hasn't been limited to the rule-making side of the ledger alone. aggressive enforcement also has been a key component of our strategy. we sent a very clear message that those who engage in illegal robocall schemes will pay a price, literally. in 2017, the fcc proposed over $200 million in fines against illegal robocallers, including the largest single fine ever proposed in the history of this agency.
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i've also personally raised this issue with some of my foreign counterparts to enable our governments to share information that is necessary to crackdown o organize -- on organized, illegal robocalling operations. but we all know that this isn't enough, and that is why we've teamed up with the ftc, with consumer advocates, and with the private sector to convene this policy forum. we're looking to you for guidance on the steps we have already taken and what steps we need to take in the future in order to protect consumers. i should note as well that this event will not be a one-hit wonder. on april 23rd, the fcc and ftc will be co-hosting an event, this time a technology expo that will feature technologies, devices, and applications that seek to minimize or eliminate the number of unwanted robocalls that consumers receive. the expo will be held at the pepco edison gallery here in washington, d.c. we hope those of you here in the audience and watching will be able to attend. with that, thanks again for joining us today. looking at the talent in this
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room, many of whom i've had the chance to work with over the past couple of years on this issue, i know that this is going to be an engaging and productive day, and at the end of it, to borrow once again from franklin, i'm quite confident we will all hang together in this fight. so thank you for your attention. with that, i'll turn it back to patrick to set us on our schedule. thanks, patrick. [ applause ] >> thank you, mr. chairman. our next featured speaker is ftc acting chairman maureen ohlhausen. she will be delivering her remarks via prerecorded video. >> thank you for coming to today's robocall forum. while i can't join you in person, i'm thrilled that the ftc and the fcc are co-hosting this event to explore the problem of illegal robocalls. and thank you to fcc chairman ajit pai and to fcc and ftc staff who made this possible.
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like you, i hate when my phone rings due to an illegal robocall. now, this problem isn't new, but it does seem to come in waves. in the late 2000s, we saw that robocalls were a growing problem, and the ftc responded by amending the telemarketing sales rule to prohibit the vast majority of robocalls or prerecorded sales calls. unfortunately, changes in telephone technology, primarily the growth of voiceover internet protocol and automated dialing software have made it much easier for telemarketers to make large volumes of robocalls with spoof caller i.d. information, for a fraction of a cent per call, often from foreign countries, with nothing more than a computer and an internet connection. each of these developments has made it easier and more profitable for robocallers to violate the law and harder for law enforcement to stop them. and that means more calls and negative effects for consumers. the ftc uses every tool at our disposal to combat the challenge
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of robocalls. aggressive law enforcement, initiatives to spur technological solutions, and robust consumer and business outreach. let me touch on each. the ftc's robocall and do not call enforcement program has two prongs. -- our first -- our first fraud program targets scams that use robocalls to commit fraud. they cause significant financial injury to many individuals. for example, in 2017, consumers reported losing $290 million from frauds perpetrated over the phone. second, our program against abusive telemarketing, strategically targets the parties most responsible for robocalls. the companies that sit at the top of affiliate telemarketing networks and the robocall kingpins who run the dialers that blast out robocalls across a wide range of industries. to date, the ftc has brought 134
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lawsuits against 789 companies and individuals alleged to be responsible for placing billions of unwanted telemarketing calls to consumers. the ftc has been awarded judgments totaling over $1.5 billion and has collected over $121 million from these violators. during my tenure as acting chairman, our enforcement stopped two companies responsible for more than 1 billion robocalls a year. and in june 2017, the doj on behalf of the ftc, along with state co-plaintiffs, obtained the largest penalty ever issued in a do not call case. $280 million against dish network as well as strong injunctive relief. our enforcement efforts remain active and aggressive, although there's always more to be done. now turning to industry outreach and technological solutions. the ftc has been especially creative and has had tremendous impact encouraging industry initiatives to tackle unlawful
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robocalls throughout our public challenges and more recently through our data initiative. the ftc has led four public challenges, really innovation contests, to spur the development of robocall blocking tools. two winners of the ftc challenges no mo robo, one, now offer leading call-blocking apps. before the ftc's first challenge announced in 2012, there were very few call blocking solutions available on the market. today there are many, particularly for wireless devices and cable or voip phones. as i mentioned, the ftc recently began a new initiative to help facilitate industry call blocking solutions by increasing the amount in frequency of consumer complaint data that we make publicly available. when consumers report do not call or robocall violations to the agency, the phone numbers consumers report are now released each business day to help telecommunications carriers
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and other industry partners implement call-blocking solutions for consumers. the ftc also now releases more data about the call, including the date and the time the unwanted call was received, its general subject matter, and whether it was a robocall. several telecom carriers have told us that sharing this data has enhanced their ability to block fraudulent or illegal calls. finally, because robocalls affect so many people, it is important to get the word out about what individuals can do. the ftc's education and outreach program reaches tens of millions of people a year, through our website, the media, and partner organizations that disseminate the ftc's consumer information. in the case of robocalls, our advice is simple. if you answer a call and hear an unwanted recorded sales message, just hang up. and be aware that there are call-blocking and labeling solutions that might reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive. indeed, on april 23rd, the ftc
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and fcc are hosting a public event to showcase some of these new solutions. i know that consumers want these abusive and often fraudulent calls to stop. the ftc's enforcement, innovation, and education efforts are substantial and ongoing. but we can do more. that's why together with the fcc and other partners, we're expanding the fight to hang up on the robocall scourge. today's forum is part of that expanding fight but much more is to come. stay tuned and thank you. [ applause ] >> and thank you to acting chairman ohlhausen. our next featured speaker is the fcc commissioner mignon clyburn. commissioner clyburn? [ applause ] >> sorry, it's further than i
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thought. good morning again, everyone. thank you for allowing me to take part in today's conversation on combatting illegal robocalls. i am pleased to see regulators, industry leaders, and consumer groups come together to discuss the regulatory hurdles posed by these illegal calls that have annoyed countless consumers and scammed millions of americans. to put it bluntly, robocalls are out of control, and we have the consumer complaints to prove it. we each have had our encounters with robocalls, so i think it is fair to say this morning that we share the same feelings about them. the scenario is a common one, the phone rings, you pick it up, then you notice that distinct pause. you sigh. because within seconds, that
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recording offering you a free vacation to the caribbean comes across the phone. now, when experiencing a mid-march blizzard in d.c. is more attractive than an offer to the caribbean, we all know we have a problem. increasingly, however, these nuisance calls are coming from spoofed numbers, from seemingly familiar numbers. advancements in technology have enabled robocalls at a scale we simply have not seen before. the techniques used by robocallers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. they are even experimenting with artificial intelligence that allows a robot to hold convincing conversations. according to the latest report, from u mail robocall index, the
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chairman might have touched this, and you know this too -- 2.7 billion of those calls were placed nationwide just last month. phone numbers are responsible equally remarkable is that four phone numbers are responsible for more than 68 million of these calls. so given the severity and complexity of the unwanted robocall problem, the fcc and ftc, along with industry stakeholders and all of you, we're coming together to create clear, enforceable rules and to encourage the creation of smart, private sector solutions. i agree fully with the conclusion of the robocall strike task force, that robocalls are best addressed in a wholistic manner, through deployment of a wide variety of tools by a broad range of stakeholders. this is why i'm particularly heartened to see a portion of today's events devoted to solutions and tools for consumers.
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while i believe the fcc can and must do more to abate this persistent nuisance, there's also room for third parties and all stakeholders to create resources to empower consumers. i admire industry efforts to develop caller i.d. authentication and the work of businesses providing blocking services such as ner marlboro -- and you know what i'm saying, no more robo -- i know i messed that up. and umail. i'm sorry. i'm in another plane right now. the robo calls are driving me crazy. efforts such as these highlight that there is room and a need for new and innovative solutions. i believe collaboration between the parties in this room will be key. so i look forward to hearing a report of the conversations taking place today, and i stand ready, as always, to work with you in support of policies and initiatives that put consumers first.
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thank you again. [ applause ] >> thank you, commissioner clyburn. we're going to go ahead and start with our first panel. that is going to be moderated by micah caldwell. she is special counsel in my office, in the consumer governmental affairs bureau here at the fcc. the panel is entitled challenges facing consumers and industry today. so i invite the panelists to come up, and micah. >> good morning, everyone. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> i'm very pleased to be here, very pleased to welcome for our first panel michele shuster,
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kevin rupy and ed bartholme. i'll ask them to introduce themselves and then we'll get started. >> i'm michelle schuster, a former consumer protection chief from the ohio attorney general's office. 11 years ago, i started a law firm, mcmurray and shuster, with three other consumer protection chiefs and a former ohio attorney general. and while i'm here representing the industry at heart i would consider myself a consumer advocate as well. i'm here in my capacity as general counsel for p.a.c.e., the professional association for customer engagement. p.a.c.e. is the only industry non-profit association dedicated solely to contact centers that place calls to consumers and businesses and use multiple channels for contacting consumers in business, including telephones, text message, social media, chat, and those types of avenues. i'm happy to be here today. >> good morning. my name is kevin rupy. i'm vice president of law and
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policy for u.s. telecom, the broadband association. our member companies represent you know, traditional wireline, broadband companies from small, rural providers to, you know, some of the largest providers in the country. robocalls has been a priority issue for our member companies, for our association, over the last several years, and i am thrilled to be here. i want to thank chairman pai and acting chairman ohlhausen for bringing this important forum together. and i do want to reiterate something that chairman pai said that i wholeheartedly agree with. this is a joint effort, so this is something that industry, consumer groups, government, we
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all have to cooperate, work together on this issue, and i do feel having worked on this issue over the last several years, i do feel like there is a tremendous amount of unity with all of those sectors moving in the same direction and in the right direction, and i'm looking forward to talking about everything that's been going on. >> ed bartholme with call for action. i'll start by echoing kevin's appreciation to fcc and their leadership and also staff for organizing today's event and look forward to participating. call for action is a national non-profit that partners with media outlets in cities throughout the country to set up volunteer-staffed consumer help hotlines. and over the past couple years, it's been interesting in terms of robocalls because we can't do mediation to get people resolutions, but what we have seen is that our offices can actually sort of track where the predictive dialers are calling. so, one day our colorado springs office might get a rash of irs-related scams and then
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nothing the next day, and it's on to atlanta or a different area of the country where we have a consumer help hotline. so, it's been a unique situation in terms of the spike of traffic into our networks that robocalls produce, but it's also been fascinating to watch how some of this has evolved based on what we're hearing from consumers. another hat that i have the great pleasure and opportunity to wear currently is that of chairing the fcc's consumer advisory committee. and kevin and i actually currently co-chair the robocall working group on that advisory committee. and over the past year and a month or so of our term, we've passed, i think, three recommendations. all of those recommendations had a number of different action items for the fcc to pursue, and i'm very happy to say that the commission and commission staff have been working very closely with our membership to make a lot of those action items come into fruition and become a reality, so that's been exciting, too. >> thank you for being here this morning again. so, let's go ahead and get started with our panel. this first panel is about
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challenges facing consumers and industry today. the intent of the panel is to sort of set the foundation for the other two panels that come later this morning that will get into some of the details about each of these areas. i think we just want to sort of scratch the surface with this first panel and give an overview of the problem as we see it. so, the first question that i have for you all, and i will direct it to both ed and kevin. i read an article in "the new york times" this morning that says that the robocalls problem is getting worse. so i'd like to get your perspectives on that. what is the extent of the illegal robocalls problem, and is it getting better or worse? >> sure. i think that "the new york times" is pretty spot on with the sense that it's getting worse, and i think the ftc numbers definitely bear that out. in 2017, they showed 4.5 million complaints, in 2016, 3.4. so, the complaint numbers are rising by over a million complaints a year.
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and that bears out if you go back even further in those statistics. and that's despite the fact that there are so many tools and resources for consumers now in the market. i mean, at&t announced, i think yesterday, or recently, that they've blocked 3.5 billion calls. i know that my cell phone provider, t-mobile, tells me "scam likely" when my phone rings, and i am not going to answer that. so, there are tools out there that are causing consumers not to deal with this, and yet, complaints are still on the rise. so i think the only conclusion we can reach is that numbers are going up, and losses are going up. consumers union reports that this is a $9.5 billion cost to our economy in money lost through these scams and phone calls. >> kevin? >> yeah, so, i think i'd echo a lot of what ed says there, and a couple things. i mean, i don't think it's any surprise that robocalls are the
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number one consumer complaint at both the fcc and the ftc. and we've heard a lot of numbers thrown out there, whether it's, you know, 2.5 billion last month or 2.1 or 2.7. i don't know what the number is. i don't think anybody can say with certainty what the number is, but it's a lot of calls. it's too many. and i think this has been an ongoing problem over the last several years. as i said, number one consumer complaint. but at the same time, i do think it's important that there has -- to note that there has been a lot of good progress on this front for consumers, and there are a lot of good things that are happening out there. and in the time i've been working on this issue, you know, five or six years, one of the things that you're seeing that
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you'll hear a lot about today, there are more tools available to consumers today. there are an increasing number of tools that are available across multiple platforms. wire line, wireless, cable, voip, et cetera. that's a good thing. there is more partnering taking place. so in other words, you are seeing that, you know, the fcc passed the order last month that, you know, gives carriers the ability to block categories of calls. that's a good thing. you're hearing about at&t that's blocked 3.5 billion calls. those are 3.5 billion fewer calls that were able to connect with consumers, and that's a good thing. there's progress being made on things like shaken and stirred, where you've seen the standards adopted, they were accelerated by six months because of the industry-led strike force were going through testing.
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that is not to say that everything's great. there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. this still is the number one consumer complaint. but i just think it's important that we not lose sight of a lot of the very good progress that's being made, and i think it's incumbent upon all of us to continue to move in that direction. >> micah, if i could add one thing to that. >> sure. >> so, you overlay with the increase in consumer complaints about robocalls the comments that the fcc receive from industry on this issue. what we're also experiencing recently is a significant rise in call completions not occurring. so, industry has testified to or provided information to the fcc that says we have seen a drop of about 20% to 30% from legitimate businesses in america as a result of the calling and labelling that's occurring. and so, while industry wholeheartedly supports taking a
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strong stance against robocalls, which are to the detriment of legitimate businesses as well, because it's deterring consumers and businesses alike from picking up the phone for calls they desire and they want to receive. so, i think we have to be mindful as we're proceeding forward in our zeal to eliminate robocalls that there are effects to legitimate businesses that also have to be considered. >> thanks, michele. yes, that's very true. so, it sounds like we're all in agreement that it's an increasing problem and that there are more tools available now than ever, but what's leading to an increase, despite the fact that there have been these really positive developments? why are we seeing more and more robocalls? so, kevin and ed, could you speak to that as well? >> sure. so, you know, i think chairman ohlhausen i think hit the nail on the head when she talked about that. and she noted the two things. you have advances in technology.
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the way i look at it, you've had -- industry has transitioned to ip-enabled networks. you've had this, you know, what i refer to as a merging of the internet with the pstn, public switch telephone network. and because of that, you've created a vehicle whereby it's much easier to inject those calls into the network. the second piece of that that i think is important to note is, as chairman ohlhausen noted, it is extremely cheap to make phone calls. you know, we're talking fractions of a penny. so, that has, you know, created this environment where you can generate a tremendous amount of phone calls at minimal cost. so, that's one of the key factors that's contributed to this. the other factor that's contributed to this is the
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fallibility of caller i.d., okay? so, caller i.d. is very, very easy to spoof, and that's what the scammers are doing. they're able to spoof these numbers and create a false sense of trust amongst consumers that might, you know, compel them to pick up the phone or make them more inclined to pick up the phone. as i said before, the good news there is that industry has developed standards, they accelerated those standards by six months. they're going through testing. it's this whole shake and stir standards and best practices that you've heard about. and i think one of the important things -- there's a couple important things to note about shake and stir. you know, that will help to reintroduce trust into the caller i.d. system, so that when that number says here's who's calling, that's who's calling. and i think an important thing to note, and michele hit on
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this -- you know, we talk about robocalls, but i really like to focus on illegal robocalls, because michele's right, there is a lot of legitimate traffic that gets thrown under this robocall umbrella, things like school closings, doctor reminders, you know, calls from companies that you had relationships with. we want to basically separate those two, get rid of the illegal robocalls and help these, you know, valid, legitimate robocalls or calls to get through, and caller i.d. can do that, authenticated caller i.d. can help you do that. >> sure. >> i would add, too, i think another thing that's driving this is the success rate, right? the people who are making these calls, the fraudsters, the criminals, they're getting a monetary payout, so it is worth their while to keep this going. kevin pointed out that it costs less than a penny to place these calls.
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when you calculate some of the fines that have been issued and divide it by the number of calls that were placed, the fines are less than a penny per call. so, you're looking at a scenario where between the cost of making the call and the potential fine, you're still spending less than a penny per call to perpetrate these scams on consumers and to swindle them out of money. so, i think that's a huge driving factor in why this continues and one of the reasons why we started to talk recently about maybe there should be a criminal element here where people spend some time in prison as a consequence for the scam calls that they're making. >> and ed literally took the words out of my mouth. i couldn't agree with that more. and you know, a couple of other things. like, we collectively -- industry, whether it's voice providers or all the different, you know, companies out there like first orion, hiya, umail --
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we want to, and i think we are making it more expensive and more challenging for these illegal actors to make calls. in other words, the more costly you make it for them to try to, you know, carry these things out, that makes it less profitable. and at the end of the day, we want to remove that component. but i do have to echo what ed said. i would strongly support and industry would be ready to partner with our partners in the federal government on helping to identify these bad actors and bringing criminal enforcement. >> i think we probably do have criminal penalties already, if people are perpetrating frauds, there would be crimes that apply to that. so, i think there's already the tools there for those types of telephone calls. you know, as we're looking at eliminating the robocalls, and again, something that we all support and all are aligned with, and as we are looking at
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the members of the industry that are being affected by the calling and labelling, i think it's really important that two things happen in this ecosystem that now exists with blocking and labelling in it. it's very important that legitimate businesses know if their phone numbers are being called or labeled. currently, there doesn't exist an easy mechanism for legitimate callers to identify that that is happening. there is currently technology in place that would provide an intercept code for businesses to receive notice that their calls are being blocked. it's been around since the 1950s. i think it's a workable solution for notifying businesses. also, for companies that are notified that their calls are being labeled or blocked, they need an easy remediation route so that they can contact somebody. and you need to understand that if a company's numbers are being blocked, a legitimate company that is invested significantly
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in complying with the tcpa or the tsr, right now they could have a number of different parties that they would have to contact, one of many telecom carriers that are out there. it could be one of many analytics companies working with them, other service providers, and there is no easy mechanism for a legitimate business to contact somebody and rectify a situation where calls are being wrongfully blocked, legitimate calls are being wrongfully blocked or labeled. so we really, you know, we encourage that as the fcc and the ftc are moving forward looking for solutions. >> and just to put a finishing point on that, you know, i do think it's important to note -- and p.a.c.e. and ustelecom have both had workshops and efforts to address that issue, because that is an important issue. and making sure that these legitimate call originators can get callers fixed where those false positives arise, but
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that's something -- you know, my -- can get problems fixed where these false positives arise. but my sense is that's something that all sectors of the industry are invested in and committed to. >> all right. thanks for that. did you have something else, michele? >> i would just ask as we're moving forward that that would be an important consideration, quickly. we have been meeting with industry groups and consumer advocates and with telecom carriers and service providers for probably about a year now without a solution, and i just really want to put an emphasis on the fact that the need for this to happen quickly is of paramount importance.
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organizations that you represent. >> sure. for the legitimate businesses and the good actors out there, the technology that we have available to reach a number of people in a short period of time is a very good thing. there are a lot of types of calls that consumers and businesses want to receive using this technology. appointment reminders, service delivery reminders, pharmacy refill reminders. school closing, a number of different good reasons and good uses for this type of technology. and the marketing world, if you can call more efficiently, people that have requested and given their consent to be called, that's a more efficient process for a business and consumers as well. so there are a lot of really great applications for the technology. the unfortunate reality is this same good technology for legitimate industry has become really a weapon that is being
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used to really be a scourge for american citizens for these illegal calls that are happening, and those types of calls really need to be distinguished from legitimate calls that businesses are making to consumers who oftentimes want to receive those calls. >> so from the industry's perspective, kevin, what are some of the challenges that the providers run into when it comes to trying to decipher between legitimate calls and illegal robocalls? >> well, so, on that point, i think there's a couple of important things to note. i always break down, when you're looking at industry sectors that are operating in this space, you have the fcc's order that authorized voice providers to conduct blocking basically at the network level on four categories of calls and those are discreet narrowly defined categories. it's, do not originate, it's invalid numbers, unassigned or unallocated numbers.
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so in that category, you have what are basically identifiable numbers that can be blocked. when you start looking at the other industry sectors like first orion, like umail, like nomorobo, there is broader latitude for the categories of calls that they can block. and i know having participated in a lot of these industry forums, they put tremendous effort into looking at multiple characteristics to make sure that when they do decide to flag that call or score that call, that they get it right. but i do think michele is right that even in that instance, we do want to make sure that there is a mechanism whereby when an instance of a false positive
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arises, that can be addressed, that it can be resolved quickly and efficiently. and there's a lot of different ways that you can go with that, and that is a lot of the discussion that's happening and i know ustelecom, we've had one initial workshop in october this year to discuss this exact issue. we've scheduled a second for may 4th here in washington, d.c. i know p.a.c.e. has similar efforts going on. but i think there is definitely a commitment to move in that direction to develop industry solutions to make sure we get it right. >> and i would say i think too, we're obviously all in agreement that illegal robocalls need to be stopped and that that's a problem, but i think the prevalence of and the volume of the illegal calls has put consumers in this position of frustration. it's put consumer advocates,
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it's put fcc chair and ftc chair people in the position of saying just hang up the phone. or don't answer the call if you don't recognize the number. so that does create a scenario where it's difficult for calls that have valuable information like a potential school closing to break through. having said that, i do think that when a consumer makes a conscious choice to sign up for a product or service offering like nomorobo, that's an exercise of choice on their part and they're saying, i'm entrusting this other group to make certain screening decisions for me. now i do think it's very important for groups that are engaging in that sort of offering to be very clear and transparent about what they're offering and what could potentially be caught in the net. so that consumers are making an informed consent choice when they decide to enroll for something like that. but i do think we can't sort of overlook that this is one way that consumers are exercising
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some choice about the types of interactions they want to receive. >> thank you, ed. so i'd like to talk a little bit about the solutions some more and i think one of the things that factors into this is information sharing. one of the things that acting chairman mentioned was that complaint data and putting the complaint data out there so that third party applications can use it for their call blocking and filtering solutions, but is there other types of information sharing that could be going on in the private sector among industry and providers to help develop some of these products and more solutions for consumers? >> so, on the information sharing, i think i applaud what both the fcc and ftc have done in terms of sharing that information. i think previously, that information was being released on like a monthly basis and it's now on a daily basis and look, at the end of the day,
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timeliness on this information is key, especially for the analytics developers who are scoring these algorithms. that's a critical component when you consider that these illegal robocallers are oftentimes changing the numbers that they're spoofing every ten minutes, every hour. so that information sharing is good. and we fully support that type of information sharing. another area that i would point out that's important information sharing is ustelecom heads what's called the industry traceback group which is 23 voice providers, cable, wireless, wire line, wholesale providers, and we act in a cooperative manner to basically share call information in order to trace back illegal robocalls.
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because i do think that type of sharing, that's a form of information sharing, that's crucial, because i'm certainly a big believer that when you can trace those calls back to their source and identify who is originating those calls, you are taking those calls out at the root. you're not trying to swat flies at the consumer end by labeling or blocking an individual call. you're pulling it out at the source. and that type of information sharing is something that i think within industry should be encouraged, that should be supported, and we certainly support broad participation in this type of sharing, so that we can more easily identify where these calls are coming from. >> that was one call not blocked. >> exactly. get on that.
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>> michele, did you have something to add? >> so, we support the information sharing, obviously, also, from the fcc and the ftc. i think that that's valuable information. companies have access to that information, so they actually have the ability to look up their phone numbers to see if they're showing up on that database as a phone number that's using -- that is receiving a complaint. so i think there's huge value in those types of lists and i again just reiterate the importance of if companies' telephone numbers are being blocked, we just really need a way of knowing that. we need a way of being able to rectify a system where blocking or labeling is happening in a way that isn't appropriate. >> kevin? >> can i just add one more thing? you know, one other factor that i point out that's important, especially how we teed up this conversation about the number of complaints being received by the
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fcc and ftc, that information sharing also goes from some of these deployed scoring and labeling services to the ftc's and fcc's complaint mechanism. so in other words, that may be a source of some of the increase in consumer complaints is that you have consumers who are now empowered with consumer tools, and those tools are reporting to the ftc and providing what i think is real, timely, accurate information so that it benefits the broader good, both in terms of enforcement and making existing tools that much more accurate. >> and i think -- >> i'm sorry, go ahead. >> i think consumers are eager to participant -- participate in data sharing as well. if you google a number that shows up on your phone, you can hit ten different results that tell you what that call was likely to have been.
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and why you shouldn't have answered it. when consumers call our hotlines to report they've gotten these calls, the constant reprieve is, i want to get this number shut down so that this person doesn't harm or scam someone else. so i think there's an eagerness by consumers to participate where it's appropriate and when they can as well. >> i guess the only thing that i would say and even just from the former regulator standpoint, when we received complaints, and especially in today's environment where we're hitting an app to send a complaint directly to a regulatory agency, oftentimes the consumer is not aware of who's calling them. they don't know what the content of the call is, so i think that there's a likelihood of many false positives that are happening throughout that complaint process. having said that, i still think it's valuable information for the companies if their phone numbers are being reported, they have the ability to look up those numbers and they know they are doing something that is not effecting what they want, which is to have a positive consumer or business interaction so those types of databases are helpful for that.
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>> well, the clock says we have a minute left, but i see that our next speaker is already here so in an effort to keep us on time, i think we should probably wrap up there rather than asking another question, so i want to thank you all again for being here today and for offering your perspectives on this issue. i appreciate your time. >> great. >> thank you, micah. >> thank you to micah and our panel one panelists. our next featured speaker is fcc commissioner brendan carr. [ applause ] >> thanks for taking the time to be here at this important discussion we're having today, and thank you for the chance to say a few words.
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as a consumer, i certainly appreciate all the work that industry, consumer groups, federal government, state government is putting into this. my very first meeting as an fcc commissioner was in september of last year, sat right over here, and during the meeting, my phone went off and rang. i forgot to put it on silent. it was, of course, a robocall. my colleagues called me out for it. so i got off to the wrong foot in this new job. but hopefully that won't happen again and we're taking action to address that stuff. but trying to address this issue of robocalls is a complicated task, technically, under the law, so that's why it's so great that we're seeing the partnerships today from the ftc, fcc, from industry, consumer groups. it is going to take continued, sustained effort along all these fronts to continue to make progress on these issues. over the past year, the fcc, for instance, we have finally
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elevated robocalls to our top enforcement priority. that's a good thing. right now, consumers receive perhaps 98 million robocalls per day or roughly 1,000 robocalls per second. at the fcc, we get about 200,000 complaints about robocalls a year, and obviously not every robocall you get, not every person that gets multiple ones is going to file a complaint at the fcc, so you can extrapolate significantly upwards from that, get a sense of the scope of this problem. so we need to continue to work with all stakeholders to be creative about identifying and implementing solutions and taking aggressive enforcement action. at the fcc, we're already working on a number of fronts, reassigned numbers is one of them. as you may have discussed already today, i think the estimates are somewhere around 38 million numbers are reassigned a year so you can
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give someone permission to call you. that number is subsequently reassigned numbers database and in july of last year, we launched a proceeding to facilitate methods of authenticating the true source of a phone call. we heard a little bit about that at the last panel, that ultimately that's one great way to get at the root of this problem. you know, right now, with ip networks, with phone calls coming in, it can be difficult to fully trace back where the actual call originated from, and that's been stopping some of our enforcement actions, so with industry's efforts, with technological progress, we're continuing to work on that effort as well. finally, obviously, is the enforcement side. and at the fcc, the last couple months, we've been issuing some of the largest fines in fcc history against illegal robocalls, which will hopefully stop some of the most abusive practices we're seeing, and send the right signal to the community that the fcc is very serious. the ftc is serious.
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state actors are serious about taking aggressive action against those people that are initiating these unwanted robocalls. so, there's more work to do, but the fcc, ftc, state and industry partners, we are all committed to taking action. we hear from consumers what a problem this is. we also understand the scope and nature in terms of how difficult it is for us to solve it but we're committed to moving forward. so i welcome today's event and the additional ideas and areas for action that it's identifying. and with that, i will move off the stage and let the true experts on this continue the really productive discussion. i do look forward to seeing the continued efforts of these types of groups in seeing where at the fcc we can continue to take action to protect consumers. so, thank you. [ applause ]
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>> thank you, commissioner carr. our second panel is entitled recent regulatory and enforcement efforts. it is moderated by tom paul, acting director of the ftc's bureau of consumer protection. i invite tom and the panelists to please come up. and i will turn it over to tom. thank you. >> all right. well, good morning, everyone. i'm tom paul, i'm the acting
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director of the ftc's bureau of consumer protection. i'm thrilled to be here today to talk about what we can do to combat unwanted and unlawful robocalls. in our first panel, we heard a lot about the prevalent extent nature of the unwanted robocalling problem that we have in the united states. i think that was very appropriate, very great way for us to get started in looking at this issue. and fortunately, our next panel here is going to talk about what state and federal government officials have been doing, what they can do, what they'd like to do to deal with robocall problems and fortunately we have a very experienced and esteemed group of panelists today to help walk us through what the government is doing, what challenges the government faces, and what their plans are for the future to try to deal with illegal robocalls. and so maybe i can just go through and have each of our panelists briefly say who they are and where they're from and
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what organization they represent and we can start with christy thompson. >> hi, good morning, everybody. i'm christy thompson. i'm the dwiks chief of the tell communications consumers division, but i like to think of myself as the fcc's robocall enforcer. that is the subject nearest and dearest to my heart. so i lead a team of about 40 analysts and attorneys. our number one focus is on consumer protection and of consumer protection, right now, the biggest issue is, of course, stopping illegal robocalls. >> thank you. >> good morning. i'm mark stone. i'm deputy chief in the fcc's consumer bureau, and i work on robocalls from a policy and rule making perspective and absolutely robocalls, illegal robocalls are the fcc's top consumer protection priority, so we're busy. >> i'm special counsel, and one of the issues that we're working on is call authentication and trust anchor, the shake and stir
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standards that you've been hearing about. >> good morning, everybody. i'm lois greisman with the federal trade commission. i head what's called the division of marketing practices, which has primary responsibility for enforcement of the telemarketing roles, both where there's fraudulent conduct and abuse of conduct and it's nice to see so many familiar faces, most of whom i think are friendly. >> good morning. my name is denise beamer. i'm the senior assistant attorney general from the great state of florida with the florida attorney generals office. within that office, in the consumer protection division, we are charged with the civil enforcement of the unfair and deceptive trade practices act along with other state and federal consumer related act. the attorney general is deeply committed to fighting illegal robocalls and there is enough work for our attorneys and our staff and our investigators to keep us busy. >> thank you very much to all of our panelists for being here
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today and sharing their expertise with us. i think some of the folks have already started doing this but i would like to have each of our panelists talk about what statute or regulations their organizations enforce or implement, because one of the things i think is very valuable for people to understand is that there are a number of legal restrictions in place and try to get a sense of how those various legal regimes interact with one another. so, perhaps we could go through each of the panelists again and talk about what their organization enforces or implements in terms of statutes and regulations to get a bit of flavor for what the overall federal and state enforcement and regulatory scheme looks like. and again we start with christy. >> the hazard of being on the end here. so the fcc has two main provisions of the communication act that are relevant for robocalls. and the first one is, of course, the telephone consumer protection act, the tcpa, which
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governs prerecorded and auto dialed calls and has been the subject of quite a bit of litigation since it was adopted by congress in 1991. the second very important provision that we enforce is the truth in caller i.d. act of 2009, and that is the act that says it's unlawful to spoof, falsify the caller i.d. information if the purpose of doing is to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain something of value. so, those two things dove tail with each other nicely because we see problems with both of those things. there's a huge number of illegal robocalls, of course, and that triggers the tcpa. and the illegal robocallers, the worst of the worst, the ones who are out there trying to defraud consumers, use spoofing as a way to hide from law enforcement, to
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hide from consumers finding out who they are and exercising their right to pursue legal remedies in court on the consumer level. and hide from our carriers, our carrier allies that are trying to locate these guys and block them. so, it's very -- so the fcc, it's very important for us that we exercise both of those laws to the fullest extent. those are the tools that we have to take down illegal robocalls and that's pretty much what i do 24/7 when we're looking at cases that we take. that's our -- that's our toolbox. >> thank you. >> so i also work a lot on the telephone consumer protection act, more from a rule making or policy implementation perspective. and what folks may not know is actually robocall is a term of art under the tcpa and just to say at the beginning, not all robocalls are bad. i think we heard there are lot of robocalls that consumers want
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to get, expressed their consent to get. nevertheless, the tcpa and the commission's rules define the rules broadly for landline phones, calls that leave prerecorded and automated voice messages and also telemarketing. for wireless, it's calls that leave auto dialed or prerecorded voice messages or are made with an auto dialer and it doesn't matter if those calls are telemarketing or not so there's a little bit of distinction between whether the call is to a landline or wireless phone and it's something that we think a lot about around here. and as kristi mentioned, we work on the truth in caller i.d. act which is a little more sher win's bailey wick. >> i don't think there's any additional statutes i have to add for the fcc to cover. we can talk about the standards a bit later. >> sure. >> from the federal trade commission, we can reach illegal
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calls under our main act, but the really discrete set of rules that govern telemarketing are part of the telemarketing sales rule which was amended effective 2009 to prohibit virtually all robocalls unless the consumer has given express written permission to that seller to receive a robocall. now -- and this is a tighter regulatory scheme than the do not call scheme because the consumer doesn't have to be on the national do not call registry for that robocall to be illegal. but i think a real difference between the fcc's regulatory scheme and the ftc's is really the definition of what is telemarketing. for us, for the federal trade commission, it has to be the sale of a good or product or the solicitation of a donation. informational calls are not covered, so when michele and kevin gave the example of the school call, the appointment reschedule call, the doctor's office call, those are not
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telemarketing under the federal trade commission's rules and i want to make one additional point on scope of coverage. calls that use sound board technology or avatar technology, which we often see used by for profit telefunders, those soliciting charitable donations on behalf of others, the ftc considers those robocalls and they are not permitted. thank you. >> so our primary authority comes from the florida unfair and deceptive trade practices act. we also have other florida state law like the florida telemarketing act that we can enforce in court. we also have the ability to enter into federal court and enforce provisions of the tcpa and the tsr and we have partnered with the federal trade commission to bring actions in federal court and have obtained very successful results. >> great. thank you. well, clearly from what we heard this morning from chairman pai, acting chairman ohlhausen and what we've heard about attorney general bondy's priorities,
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certainly dealing with robocalls is at the top of the agenda of many federal and state officials. i'd like to hear from the panelists as to are there any new actions or initiatives your organizations have commenced to deal with unlawful robocalls, including partnerships with each other or partnerships with industry, working with consumer advocates, are there new -- just generally, are there new actions or initiatives that your organizations have undertaken that you would like to highlight for the folks in attendance. >> we've heard a little bit of talk earlier today about a commission decision back last november, and that was one of the first times the commission has really said the voice service providers are our partners in blocking illegal robocalls. if we can stop the worst robocalls before they ever reach consumers, that's a win. so in november of last year, the commission for the first time said that voice providers can block calls that are highly
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likely to be illegal. how do we know they're highly likely to be illegal? because of the spoofing element that we touched on earlier. so the commission specified two categories of spoofed calls where it found no legitimate robocall would be spoofing these numbers. so we've heard a little bit about this already but it's a do not originate type of number, think about the irs scam where the irs says we do not make calls from this number. any call purporting to be from this number ain't us so please block those sorts of calls. the second category are calls of caller i.d. invalid phone numbers, 000 area code, no legitimate caller would want to call from this number. and then finally there are numbers that haven't been allocated or assigned to anyone yet. again, no reason that a legitimate robocall would want to make these calls. so again, the commission in november said that voice providers may, although they don't have to block these types of calls before they ever reach consumers.
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statement, the commission is looking at other objective bases that might be able to indicate that a call is illegal. these are data analytics type things where, for example, someone spoofs my phone number and all of a sudden a voice provider sees that my number is making a million robocalls in the course of a couple seconds. that's probably not me. probably a good indication that that's a spoofer. so the commission is developing a record around that. of course one of the issues there is we want to make sure that i can't -- my ability to make calls, the legitimate subscriber's ability to make calls is not compromised so that's a big part of what we're looking at. >> so, i'm glad you asked that question. just this morning, we filed a case against a massive robocaller, ftc against alliance security making directly and indirectly millions of robocalls, including calls to consumers whose number is on the do not call registry and using deceptive tactics to sell home security alarms. i suspect there's not a single person in this room who hasn't
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received that type of phone call. i'll give a quick shoutout to ian barlow, who's one of our lead counsels in it. so this is another case tackling what we really strategically identify as kingpins in the robocalling industry, whether they're the dialers or voice blasters that are hosting these calls and pushing them out or the main sellers at the top of these affiliate telemarketing networks. we've brought a series of these cases. i could name the names but hopefully no one in this room is really familiar with them, but they're well known in industry and our job has been to strategically target them, identify them and impose as strong civil injunctive relief as we can. in most of these cases we've successfully achieved tell marketing bans. in fact, part of this case, some of the defendants settled and they are banned from selling home security alarm systems.
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and in other instances, trying to achieve a strong civil penalty. speaking of partnerships, state of florida has been a tremendous partner in really the fraudulent telemarketing case which cause enormous economic injury. and we've forged not just state/federal partnerships but also partnerships with our international colleagues who suffer the same impact of these awful telemarketing calls and with a particular focus on illegal telemarketing out of india. >> so, one of the things that we are interested in helping along is the industry effort to implement shaken and stir. so call authentication. you've heard about this but essentially the idea is that a carrier, a phone company, can sign the phone calls as they're being made. it's a way for the company that
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initiates the phone call to vouch for it, that this number, this call is actually coming from the number it says it is coming from. so they're able to include that signature on it when it's received, whoever's receiving that, actually the phone company that's going to terminate that call or even the handset manufacturer or even the consumer themselves can make that decision, can determine what to do with this call, knowing that either they know it is from the number it says it's from or it can't be vouched for. so, that leaves any person along that chain the ability to make those decisions. so, the phone companies can block it. a third party anti-spoofing organization can block that or the consumer could receiving this information say, there's no sort of vouching for this. i'm not going to accept this call. it also, in the case where calls are verified and they turn out to be fraudulent, it would allow
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law enforcement to trace back and find those people more easily than the current process allows. so what the fcc is interested in doing is making sure that -- these standards have been developed, they're being tested right now, and we want to make sure that this process continues to move forward, that it can be deployed broadly as quickly as possible to help people combat spoofing and illegal spoofing. we have a record that's open on this. the north american numbering council is currently consulting on ways to make sure that we can set up the structures necessary for industry to coordinate and collaborate on this. and to move this forward as quickly as we can. >> so, the florida attorney general's office has a special investigations unit where if we get a consumer complaint about a particular phone call, we'll reach out to the carrier, communicate what the consumer has told us via the complaint
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and try and have that phone number stopped. however, time is of the essence in these cases. these robocallers are very sophisticated. they change their numbers on a consistent basis. we've had some success. we work with other state agencies and we're constantly in communications about new scams because they're constantly changing, especially those that target veterans, those that target senior citizens, within the state and outside, and also other groups that are sensitive and vulnerable to these types of scams. >> great. well, thank you, everyone. one question that had come up on the last panel or one point that had come up was a difference between unlawful robocalls and lawful robocalls. just curious as to what your organizations do to try to treat these calls differently and in your work. perhaps start with denise. >> i think it's easy to
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differentiate between the fraudulent telemarketing calls and those that are legitimate. the fraudulent telemarketing calls have those consistent red flags. high pressure sales tactic, you have to pay me now, the offer is going to end soon, and then later i couldn't cancel or get a refund and then i cannot get in contact with whatever good or service was provided over the phone, so it's very easy for our investigators and our staff to differentiate and sort out those that are really the fraudulent robocalls versus those from legitimate businesses. >> and i'd say on our side, i mentioned earlier us empowering voice providers to block illegal robocalls. at the same time, call completion of legitimate calls, all legitimate calls, including robocalls, is also important to the fcc. so, what we've done is encourage voice providers, you heard a little bit about this earlier, to have a mechanism in place to identify quickly false positives and rectify that situation. because no one wants your kid's
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school robocall to get blocked in the net. similarly you heard mentioned earlier today the reassigned numbers database. that's an effort by the fcc to make sure that robocalls made by legitimate callers that are desired by consumers are still made and still received. so, the mere fact that i give up my phone number to someone else should not mean that i stop getting the robocalls that i consented to earlier and it shouldn't mean that the new person that has the phone number gets unwanted robocalls so that's a big part of our initiative to make sure the good robocalls get to the right people, even as we move forward to block the worst robocalls. >> and -- sorry. i just want to underscore from the federal trade commission. the definition of telemarketing is different so that the school calls, the doctor calls, are not telemarketing -- are not robocalls. they're not illegal for purposes of the federal trade commission act and i think that really is an important distinction. that's not where we're doing any law enforcement and nor would we and the ftc also doesn't distinguish between a call to a
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wire line or a wireless one. those are just not relevant distinctions. i think the world of industry robocalls that are legitimate, really, is a fairly narrow slice and this is something i've talked to p.a.c.e. about. and the ftc has no interest whatsoever in chilling that world. but i do think it is a relatively narrow set of the unwanted and illegal robocalls that are being placed. >> i think that's right. and that's certainly what we -- that tracks with what we see on -- from the fcc's side as well. to add to this, to the extent that the fcc -- the tcpa could potentially draw in more than, say, the most abusive types of robocalls, we have the prosecutorial discretion, if you will, to decide what kind of cases to take, and me and my
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enforcement attorneys are not interested in taking cases against school districts that are -- that may be calling a little more than they should. we don't have the time or resources to police nonproblematic robocalls. so we really look at what are the consumers telling us and that's where we're going to focus our efforts. that's the irs scams, the microsoft scams, the other -- my favorite are the carpet cleanings and the roofing scams that show up quite frequently. we're going after the worst of the worst because they're the ones that need the most attention immediately. >> great. well, thank you, everyone. what would you say is the most important and most significant challenge your organization faces in dealing with illegal robocalls? >> i'll start with this. spoofing is the gasoline on the robocalling fire.
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it allows robocalls, illegal robocalls to thrive, to spread, and it makes it very, very difficult for me to find the bad guys and take action against them. that is the most significant challenge for us is going through the process of identifying where those illegal robocalls come from. it's a laborious enforcement process. we have to send a daisy chain of subpoenas from the end recipient's carrier all the way to the originating carrier because there is no identifier that we can trust in the call stream information. that's changing, which i'm very glad is happening with the shaken and stir standards that are being rolled out. and another significant change that has happened just in the last five years has been folks like the u.s. telecom that have gotten together and are now
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working together cooperatively to save me, for example, five or six steps in the subpoena process. that group of carriers getting together, sharing information and tracing back the call as far as they can before letting us know and referring it to us means that that's numerous carriers in the chain that i don't have to contact or subpoena or try to get information from because they've already done that work for me the. that has been tremendously helpful and i couldn't be happier at our continued partnership on that front. >> i totally agree. what industry has done on traceback has been enormously helpful, and we encounter the exact same challenges fcc does and i'm sure the states do. we've got a spoofed number, what do you do, how do you work with that. i mean i think you talk about challenge, so every month we have upwards of 400,000 reports about unwanted calls.
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not saying every one of those is an illegal call but one can probably presume that the vast majority are and that those are the tip of the iceberg of unwanted and illegal calls received each month. every business day, we're putting on the public record the consumer reports of some 18,000 phone numbers. so that is a lot of information out there, that's a lot of potential targets to work with. so, the challenge in law enforcement in this area, like in so many areas, we all have limited resources. how do you strategically target so that you're getting the biggest bang for the buck? one of the enormous challenges has been telemarketing from abroad and we see this in the irs scams and what we call the technical support scams. i am from microsoft, i'm from dell, your computer's infected. we've met several times in india with indian authorities, with stakeholders, with industry members as well as had a series
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of meetings here and we've actually been successful in shutting down some of those operations with the indian authorities and particularly the department of justice here. there was a major crackdown, i think, back in the fall of 2016. so there are ways to try to combat the illegal telemarketing that's coming from abroad, but i think that will continue to pose a real challenge. >> so i think the challenge for us is when we turn our policy lens to one particular type of robocall or spoofing and try to get a beat on that, often the spoofers and robocallers move to other areas. we hear about neighbor spoofing all the time. that's a big challenge to us but it's very gratifying to see so many folks in the space kind of come together. i think we've never worked better with industry on trying to solve a problem with our federal partners as well. there's also a challenge, a big part of what my bureau does is consumer outreach. it's a challenge to talk to consumers and say, we're trying to help. we're trying to prevent illegal robocalls, trying to make sure
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that you can trust, eventually, when a phone number pops up on your phone that you know exactly who that is and it's okay to pick that up or also educate them if they're unsure about the caller to hang up and then google the phone number that came in to you to see if it's legitimate or not. so that's a big part of this, talking to consumers and letting them know what their best method is to protect themselves even as we're trying to work at a higher level to make things better in the future. >> i would echo everything that the panel has already mentioned about spoofing. the international presence. and the outreach component. there's also the component of locating the actual rooms where the telemarketing calls are coming from. in central florida, i'm in sunny orlando, but in central florida we have conducted immediate access cases where we enter the telemarketing room once we have a federal court order and we actually see the telemarketers set up in the room, we see the
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network systems that have been built in, but finding those actual rooms can become a challenge because they make this maze of companies. from an enforcement point of view, that can be a significant challenge as well. >> thank you. the d.c. circuit issued a decision ruling on a number of objections to a 2015 fcc order clarifying aspects of tcpa's general bar against automatic dialling devices to make automatic calls. i was wondering if colleagues in the fcc can describe what was held and if the panelists can speak to whether that decision is likely to have an impact on the government's ability to deal with with unwanted robo calls or not? >> sure. i would say we're still die jesting the opinion here. in a high level, the court rules
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on a couple things. the fcc's interpretation of the autodial which is relevant to robo calls made to wireless calls. the past interpretation of reassigned numbers issue and finally, replication of consent. there was one other issue as well. the d.c. circuit said past fccs decision or interpretation of autodial up was flawed. that was the big headline from the decision. secondly, the d.c. circuit reversed the past commission's decision on reassigned numbers including a one call safe harbor where a caller said the caller had one call to find out they are reassigned and after that, they are on the hook for liability. so the d.c. circuit set that aside. i upheld the past decision finding consumers have a right. to revoke past consent. so, again, we are digesting that decision, it's somewhat complex. i think our view here is
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a lot of initiatives we have taken at the fcc aren't dependent on decisions or interpretations. for example, the court noted favorably the reassigned numbers initiative that was voted on yesterday. likewise, caller i.d. authentication and call blocking really don't depend on any specific tcp interpretation. i would expect as they are thinking of next steps, those these are other efforts will proceed. >> on the enforcement side, if largest couple cases we have released in the past year have been at least the notice apparent liability of proposed fines. we are based on the truth in caller i.d. act, not the tcpa, the focus of the court's action in the most recent decision. so, in terms of putting folks like adrian abramvich out of business, the court's decision doesn't really affect our work to enforce the
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spoofing laws. even the decision on, when we assigned for violating the tcpa for the illegal robo calls. those robocalls included a prerecorded voice message. so under the tcpa, the autodialer issue, the key focus of the decision doesn't enter into that. so, we feel confident that we will continue to bring cases against the adrian's abramovichs of the world, especially when those mass spoofers or sorry, the mass robo callers are engaging in spoofing, which violates a completely separate statute. you will see more from us, even after this aca decision. >> great. thank you. turning to possible solutions to overcoming the challenges the folks on the panel mentioned.
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with changes on the law whether that be helpful to you to try to deal with unlawful robo calls? any of the panelists if they think there are changes in statute or regulation that could be helpful and if so, how could they be helpful? >> the ftc has been on record now for more than a decade for repeal of the common carrier exemption. it's obsolete. it just doesn't make sense. it hasn't made sense for the last decade or more. it does impede or at least hinder our ability to go after some bad actors out there, particularly in the reselling market where we do see specific carriers that, in effect, are hostion -- hosting robocallers that are placing illegal calls. we encounter instances in law enforcement where we see entities that are, if they are
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not carriers report to be carriers. it raises the enforcement cost going after them. that's the big one from us. >> the fcc has also been on record for a couple improvements that would help in terms of enforcement. we have a one year statute of limitations so extending that to two years instead of one would be enormously helpful. previously, we talked about the difficulty finding bad guys when they use spoof numbers. pretty much all of the bad guys use spoofed numbers. that just slows down our ability to find them, which means, from practical perspective, several months may go by, even if we are notified of the robocall the day after it happens, it will take us some amount of time to figure
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out where that call came from and untangle the nest of shell companies like lois mentioned. and that eats into that one year statute of limitations. it seems like a long time, but from an enforcement perspective, it really isn't. the other change we talked about publicly is under the tcpa and under the communications act, when we find a roshl when we find a robo caller, this is just for the robo call violations for tcpa. if that violator is not an authorization holder, permit or license holder of the fcc, the maximum enforcement action we can take against that robo caller is send them a citation, which is effectively a legal warning letter, don't do this in the future or you'll get in trouble. the purpose for that, you know, as enacted by congress was to make sure folks who aren't necessarily well versed in fcc
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law don't get swept into the more nuanced portions of the communications act, which manges sense. at this point, it's well known robocalls a problem. the targets we are going after are so clearly and obviously intentionally violating the law that having a warning letter at the outset is really frustrating and would be helpful to exempt, as congress did in the spoofing context, to exempt that part of the communications act from the citation requirement. >> thank you. one thing that folks have noted is many of the bad actors and their assets are located abroad. what are the sort of things that are impediments to proceeding against foreign-based actors and are there things that can be done to overcome those obstacles?
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ask lois to respond to that, first. >> through the safe web ack, the ftc does have lots of tools they can use to seek to obtain information on entities located offshore. so, we can issue process and do parts of an investigation. obviously, where there are assets offshore, that's incredibly complicated. we see even the indian operations targeting u.s. citizens and canadians and others, we often see something in the u.s., something we can freeze as part of a federal district court proceeding and, in some instances, we have defendants who, for a variety of reasons are actually willing to repetriuate assets offshore. we have had a fair amount of success but there's no question, this is a challenging area.
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>> in terms of shiny and stir, it should be possible if two countries have these systems in place and they can coordinate their systems appropriately, these systems should be able to work across borders, so it would be possible to have international calls be vouched as well. it does require more coordination and that's something we hope to see in the future. >> it's very challenging when you identify a bad guy robocaller and determine that they are operating overseas. i don't think it's any secret, there are some countries that we have great relationships with in terms of the united states has a great back and forth and cooperative relationship for law enforcement purposes, and there are other countries for whom that is not at all the case. and so we have been frustrated
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before, tracing back calls to locations and countries that have a difficult or, you know, even overtly hostile relationship with the united states because there's, you know, practically speaking, very little chance that we are going to be able to persuade the lawmakers or, you know, authorities in those jurisdictions to go after citizens. and help us in those investigations. that becomes frustrating. but that's where cooperation with the ftc and other elements of the united states federal government, state department, other law enforcement agencies becomes extremely vital to have that communication back and forth. >> i want to draw an imperfect line. my colleagues will correct me if i'm wrong. much of what i call the abusive telemarketing where they are selling home alarm systems, medical alert devices, energy
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solar panels, i think most of that is emanating from the united states. what we are seeing -- and the kingpin telemarketer might have a call center in the philippines or nicaragua, but the core of that operation, the abusive telemarketing is in the united states. where we see the international, significant international post is where we are seeing hard core fraudulent telemarketing. >> right. >> thank you. another question we hear a lot on the first panel about what industry is doing. i would like to hear from each panelists as to what's the most important thing industry does to help you do your job and what could industry do different or better to help you protect consumers from illegal robocalls? maybe start at this end with denise this time. >> i mean, i think the most helpful information from private
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industry is helping us locate the originating phone calls and not allow those massive robo calls to keep going through the carrier system. but, you know, obviously the subpoena responses we obtain from the companies in our investigation, i think more outreach and education to the consumers that there are different apps available, certain things to avoid when you get these robo calls is helpful, especially for senior citizens. we see that especially in the state of florida where we have a great consumer population of senior citizens, they are not aware of the technology that is available. they are more trusting of people that call on the phone and speak to them. they are more likely to send money for the scams and they don't want to be rude and hang up the phone when they probably should. more outreach, informing consumers and family members that those tools are out there and available would greatly
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assist us from our enforcement side. >> one word, innovate. do what you do best. it is just remarkable to see the proliferation and variety of call blocking technology that have developed over the last several years. sitting from the ftc, we are proud of the role we play with purr spurring these technological developments starting in the 2012 first robo call challenge. i'm looking at people that visited recently. it's wonderful to come in and tell us what you are doing, tell us how we can assist. the dynamic shift in the marketplace from just a few years ago was like call blocking is illegal. we can't do it, don't even say the words, to now, concerns with perhaps the unintended consequences of too much call blocking. that is a dynamic marketplace
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and that's exactly what we want to see happening. >> so, i think the call authentication standards are industry developed, and i think that's one of the great things that's been happening in this field. as for what can be done, i think it really is a matter of, you know, they have been developed, they are being tested, it's a matter of them being deployed as fully and quickly as we can. making sure that industry is working together to bring that out, that these systems are going to be out there and usable to a wide variety of actors. >> for us, it's call blocking. we worked very well with telecom industry to encourage call blocking on an objective basis, that it's based on good, objective criteria. at the same time, the fcc made call blocking optional, it's voluntary. one thing we are interested in
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hearing is, what is difficult about call blocking for some carriers? it is a cost issue? it is other issues? we would like to see more carriers block based on the grounds you can block on. that's a big part of our worry, to determine how carriers view that and the struggles they are facing. >> from my perspective on the enforcement side, the best thing that the carriers and industry have done for us in the last few years is and can continue to do is work with us. continue to share information with us, continue to think of new ways to combat an ever evolving landscape of illegal activity. the fraudsters that we are up against are creative. they are highly skilled and very adaptive.
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when you close off one way they get in, they will explore and expand into another way. so, that presents a challenge that will require law enforcement and industry and consumer groups all to work together. in this space, there's not one of those individual pieces that has all the answers or the ability to control the whole ecosystem and stop it. it really requires every, you know, consumers and government and industry all working together to solve the problem and to keep talking to each other about the new issues that are coming up when they come up so we can tackle them immediately. >> thank you. one thing that has been mentioned a number of times on the panel is the value of partnerships, whether it's federal-federal, federal-state among government officials. are there things governmental partners could do better or
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differently in the future to be more effective? >> speaking for us, i think we developed a great relationship with federal trade commission. i think, in my shop, we do a lot of rule making and the ftc has been instrumental in making comments on how we might move forward. also, doing outreach together is a good idea. this is part of that. i think the ftc has terrific outreach materials and we do as well. making sure consumers understand we are one federal government working for them would be great. a lot of times we get questions around do i file a complaint with the ftc or fcc. i think that's an opportunity for us to work together and continue to improve that. >> i think we do a good job at it. you know, i appreciate what mark says and other panelists here, but we have been working cooperatively with the fcc on
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this issue for however long. state partners have been tremendous, not just florida but we work through n.a.g. with calls on what's happening with the telemarketing front. it's a target-rich environment. we all need to be at the table. we are all at the table. >> you know, working with the federal trade commission has been a wonderful experience, going to federal court, getting the ex parte, the asset freezes, having a receiver take over the business and try to get restitution for consumers. we, as a state, we are on the ground. we are the boots on the ground that can conduct the surveillance and look into the maze of shell companies and the bank account that is exist and try to track down the money to seize it and ultimately get it to the consumers and provide injunctive relief like a life-long telemarketing ban or a ban against making deceptive and misrepresentations when it comes to selling goods and services. i think the partnership has been great.
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we are in communication with the federal communications commission because their targets, some of them are located in florida, so we're constantly in communication with federal partners and work with different state regulators. in florida, we have the licensing arm of the tell marketing, the department of constantly working with them to stop the robocalls and also as lois mentioned the nag tree where we're sharing information with canada and other foreign countries, federal partners and also various states. >> one question that comes up anytime we are talking about consumer protection law is how we could work better with consumer advocates and other nonprofit organizations, nongovernmental organizations
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and the like. what is their role in dealing with unwanted robocalls, unlawful robocalls and are there things that we could do better working with them to help consumers? i will throw that out for any of the panelists to respond to. >> so i see susan grant here and margot saunders and i'm sure they will have their own views, but i view them as enormous resources. you know, if i have questions about what's going on i ask them, if there's some particular, you know, push i'd like them to assist with, i will readily turn to them and i hope and it's been my experience that they will do the same with us. they have an ability to reach people and through -- through pipelines that we don't and we rely on them to do just that. >> i would echo that. we rely tremendously on consumer groups to help us. a lot of our proceedings are paper proceedings so we really depend on their submissions both on legal and policy questions, but in addition to informing our
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policy and law it's really important that they are sort of helpful in the outreach perspective. that they help us get the word out on what we're doing, but that we also are able to hear from them what consumers are experiencing every day. so they are invaluable. >> consumer complaints drive what i do every day. we look at what consumers are talking about and what the problems they face, they file complaints with us, they file complaints with the ftc. we don't believe in enforcing solutions for which there are no problems. we go after -- we go after what consumers tell us we need to go after. right now that's robocalls. what we hope to get the most out of consumer groups and out of consumers themselves is information -- actionable intelligence, actionable intel. something that we can -- enough information that can start an investigation to solve that problem, find that bad guy that's making hundreds of
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millions of illegal robocalls. and our work with consumer advocacy groups has been very helpful. we've been able to say -- explain this is what we need in consumer complaints in order, you know, for us to pick it up and start the process. it has been great how receptive consumer groups have been and also, you know, working with folks who offer consumer solutions to the problems, also have feedback for us, folks like no more robo and others. they have interfaced daily with consumers and their users and can say, hey, these are the patterns that we are seeing. those conversations help inform our enforcement efforts and make it a lot -- make my job significantly easier. >> thank you. i guess we have about ten minutes left. i think i want to pose one last question and let people elaborate on that and the
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question is just if each panelist could identify what is the most important thing they think that the government could do to decrease the prevalence of unwanted or unlawful robocalls. and perhaps we will start with denise this time and just hear from the panelists what's the most important thing we can do to decrease unwanted robocalls going forward. >> i think it's going after the kingpins of these industries that are very well known, they are connectors, they connect the different businesses to each other, they are very sophisticated and constantly have scams that are evolving. so really targeting those individuals and going against them with the full force of the law that we can with the tools that we are provided and what remedies we are provided under the law, it causes a deterrent effect. i remember we went into a medical -- they were selling robocalls, it was a medical alert device system, they were
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calling nursing homes and other senior citizens with this robocall that said, hey, this is john from shipping, a family member or a friend recommended you get this device, it's similar to a life alert device, it's not life alert, it was someone else, and so the consumer thought, oh, my gosh, my family member thinks i need this, you know, it's free as the robocall said, let me just give them the information. well, lo and behold we found out that the consumer was charged a monthly fee, they were never told of it, when they tried to cancel they couldn't. but when we went into the room and we saw the large telemarketing room with individuals on the phone with sophisticated dialing systems at their computer and their fingertips and we heard from the business owners that their marketing costs for these robocalls were so cheap that really there was no incentive to stop, but when we went in and we went in with our receiver and with the attorneys from the
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federal trade commission and our office along with ag law which is our criminal -- they are with the department of agriculture consumer services, they have criminal powers but they came in with us and we showed them that we were very serious about stopping this and a lot of those telemarketers later told us that they didn't realize what they were doing was wrong because they were told something else from their bosses. so i think it really causes a deterrent effect when we go into these businesses and we seize the personal assets and the business assets and later get a federal court order banning them from the industry and later it goes out into the internet and these people can never find jobs -- they are not permitted under the order, but some will go out in the industry because that's all they know, but they are now tagged with our law enforcement efforts and they will -- cannot find a job in the industry. so from top to bottom i think really being aggressive with these robocallers and taking a stand and working with our partners, does cause a deterrent effect and i have seen it firsthand.
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>> so three prongs. one is sustained relentless law enforcement, and i want to tease that out a bit when we are talking about abusive telemarketing, not the fraudulent. so the dish network case was filed in 2009, it took years to get a litigated decision and the precedent setting $280 million civil penalty. i say all this with the caveat it's on appeal, but -- but the nature of the telemarketing setup there, the network, essentially you had a seller saying i'm not responsible for how my product is marketed or how my product is telemarketed and this is what we hear time and time again when we are looking at abuse of telemarketing. you have the dialer who says i don't know who is using my platform, how can i possibly know. it's actually very easy to know. or you have the reseller -- unwanted call, it's not me. if it's a home warranty, if it's a vacation, whatever.
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you have the affiliate -- you have the person who is just doing the robocall that says press one if you want a home warranty saying i don't know when i'm carrying on that, i don't know what the mechanism is. so on law enforcement part of our job at the ftc is to push the case law to develop more cases like dish. i think the case you are referring to is life watch. again, the same type of affiliate telemarketing network where you have the seller saying i'm not responsible for how my product is marketed. so moving the case law so that there's greater clarity and greater deterrence is a top priority from where i sit. the other two areas are innovation, spurring technology, ensuring the marketplace. it is free to develop the tools that are needed. third prong is outreach and consumer education. you will hear from natwood on the next panel. the materials we put out i think are first rate and we partner
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with fcc, we partner with the states. the message is not just hang up if you don't recognize, the message is also here is information on all the great call blocking tools out there. here are other things you can do to protect your privacy. thanks. >> i've been here talking about spoofing and efforts to combat spoofing so forgive me. feel free to accuse me of tunnel vision when i say i feel that is one of the most important efforts. it does address some of the most egregious types of fraud and also just provides more information into the whole system that allows carriers, third party developers, handset manufacturers and consumers themselves to deal with these problems firsthand. >> i agree with sherwin. i think the biggest thing is call authentication. in the interim we can facilitate call blocking, we can also do greater enforcement, but in the end spoofing is the big part of the problem.
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indeed third-party blocking apps and devices are somewhat dependent on spoofing, not all of them, but spoofing is a way to evade some of that. it's longer term, but it strikes me that that call id authentication is really where everyone should be focused. >> i would echo the same thing, sherwin, if you are in a tunnel i'm in there with you because i 100% agree. rolling out call authentication is i think going to make the biggest difference in the government's ability to stamp out illegal abusive robocalling and also the ability of the carriers to exercise, you know -- to aid their customers in blocking those calls that their customers also do not want. that is the biggest piece. and then the second piece is that in the meantime as, you know, mark was alluding to, in the meantime it's incumbent on all of us to continue to work
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together and bring the expertise and the resources that each one of us has, consumers, government and industry together, to combat the problem while the technological upgrades are being -- are being completed. >> great. thank you very much. i think we are out of time. i want to thank all of our panelists for sharing their insights and information about all the fabulous work they're trying to do to deal with illegal robocalls and thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you, again, tom and all of our panel two panelists. our next featured speaker is ftc commissioner terrell mcsweeny. commissioner mcsweeny. [ applause ]
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>> what a polite audience. thank you guys very much. i want to say first of all good morning and what a pleasure it is to be here this morning. thank you to the fcc for hosting this discussion and thanks very much to all of the federal trade commission staff who have been working tirelessly on this issue for a number of years. it's been a pleasure getting to know them while i've been at the ftc and they've really as i think you can see from the discussion on the last panel working collaboratively with the fcc, with state partners to fight the scourge of robocalls with the tools that they have. so i want to commend them for their efforts. i'm going to start with the usual disclaimer that i am giving you my own views not the official views of the ftc, but i think it is the official view of the ftc that robocalls are a top consumer complaint year over year and that we need to be using all of our tools in our toolbox to combat the problem.
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i want to start just by noting, though, that the origins of some of our authorities in this area, you know, privacy and more specifically americans rights to win control over their data is once again in the news. it bears noting that the origin of the do not call registry stemmed from a bipartisan effort to protect americans privacy in 2003. it unanimously passed the senate. at the time democrats and republicans came together to provide a way for people to protect themselves from unwanted intrusion of telemarketing calls. now, i recognize that we are here today because technology and scammers find ways around those protections and more on that in a minute, but i don't think that that makes the achievement of providing consumers with stronger protections any less notable. and if anything the news and events of the last week underscore that american consumers deserve stronger protections for their data. the technology we are all using in our daily lives is
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increasingly sophisticated and the amount of data we are sharing is increasingly intimate. without proper protections, our own data can be and potentially is being used against us. the incentives in the marketplace drive through greater collection and use of the data and the fcc, the ftc and other expert consumer protection regulators all have a role to play in providing protections for consumers. but without stronger and -- without a stronger and more resilient framework, one that includes requiring often choices for the monetization of sensitive information american consumers will be left vulnerable at a time when we can least afford to be. i think american consumers need stronger protections for the digital age and those would include comprehensive data security and privacy laws, transparency and accountability for data brokers and rights for control over our data. it's time for democrats and republicans to come together again to make progress on a significant privacy issue just like they did 15 years ago.
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so i'm happy to be here today to say that i think it's very encouraging to hear how the ftc, the fcc and our state partners are engaged in unrelenting enforcement efforts to shut down law violators that continue to flood our phones with illegal calls. here we can all agree that having as many law enforcement partners on the beat as possible to safeguard consumer privacy and protect consumers from fraud and abuse is a no-brainer. as we just heard, multiple enforcement partners leveraged different expertise, different jurisdictional authority and different resources to combat this threat. i'm particularly proud of the enforcement action the ftc announced today against home security installation company alliance security and it's telemarketers. according to our complaint the alliance defendants made at least 2 million illegal calls to consumers, violating the law is
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no way to sell security. but as we know, even with many cops on the beat the calls keep coming. consumers need effective tools to stop the seemingly endless calls and they need meaningful choices to select the best tool for them. the good news is that today there are a growing number of call blocking tools and choices. when i first came to the commission in 2014 consumers had very few options to stop unwanted calls, but as a result of the federal trade commission's first robocall challenge, nomo robo was available for voice over ip home phones, which is a good start, but there are also very few options for wireless and little to no options being offered directly by the providers. after three more ftc challenges and continuous work with the industry and all of our partners, today the landscape is very different. a number of providers offer some types of call blocking services directly to their voice over ip
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or wireless customers or both and wireless customers now have a number of call blocking apps to choose from. ctia who we will hear from on the next panel put out a list of over 40 apps for ios and android phones alone. so why aren't these tools having a greater impact and what can we do to help? well, first off, many consumers don't know that there are more tools available today to stop illegal or unwanted calls. we are working to change that. with today's event the upcoming expo next month and through our consumer education and i'm delighted that the ftc today is putting out additional consumer education materials through our office of consumer and business education. second, these tools aren't available to all consumers. not all providers offer call blocking solutions to their customers. why not? when consumers pay for phone service, shouldn't they be able to expect that they are getting the best available protection from illegal calls?
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and finally consumers with traditional copper landlines still have very few options to stop illegal calls. there is no app for that. the best way to fill these gaps and what i'm excited to hear more about from the next panel is to empower and expect providers to deploy solutions at the network level that will reach every consumer. effective call blocking tools should be available to call consumers. and of course, trust must be restored to call err id information through adoption of the stir shaken framework for caller id authentication sooner rather than later. i know that the ftc stands ready to do our part and make sure that consumers understand these tools and how best to use them to protect themselves and with that i'm excited to turn it over to the next panel for a discussion of the solutions and tools that are available to consumers. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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>> thank you, commissioner mcsweeny. as commissioner mcsweeney said, our third panel is entitled solutions and tools for consumers. it is being moderated by julie knapp who is chief of the fcc's office of engineering and technology. so i invite julie to come up and all of the panelists to come up as well. >> okay. and i will turn it over to julie. >> i will just give everybody a
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minute to get settled. >> good morning, still morning. a lot of pressure on this panel because it's the last panel before lunch. so this panel is going to talk about some of the solutions. i know in my home when the phone rings the first thing we do is we listen for the announcement of the id. i get a lot of calls from unavailable and out of area and then when there is a number that you see perhaps in new york where you might have relatives and you wonder, you don't recognize the number, should i pick it up? maybe it's somebody calling about something has happened with my brother or sister. do i take a chance in not answering it? so you go ahead sometimes and i
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know my wife will immediately say to me, why did you pick that up? so, you know, this panel is going to talk about some solutions and so the pressure is on for me if i don't have something good to say when i get home i might not get in the door. so obviously there is a lot of terrific work that's going on and just to start i'd like to have each of our panelists introduce themselves and say a little bit about their organizations and we will start with alex. >> thank you. my name is alex algard i'm here from hiya, i'm the ceo of the company, we are a seattle-based business and one of the business lines is to help our partners primarily wireless carriers and smartphone oems deal with this robocall play. we also have apps that we provide for direct download by consumers, but that's not as
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significant part of our business. we have the largest team in the industry of data scientists and engineers that are dedicated to determining who are the bad callers, who are the good callers, which is equally important, and provide as much information at the fingertips of our user base so they can make informed decisions. >> i'm jim mceachern and here in with the industry solutions of alliance, in the context that shaken which is going to be discussed i think a little bit today came from the ipni task force which was a joint effort and i have personally been fortunate enough to have been involved in that activity since the very beginning when we decided it had to be called shaken because it wasn't stirred.
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>> hi, i'm alex quilici, we supply the robocall index. which is our estimate what the world looks like in terms of robocalls every month. we've got interaction in terms of having blocked well over a billion calls at this point. >> hi, i'm margot saunders, i work with the national consumer law center, we are a national public interest law firm that represents consumers before congress and the federal agencies. >> i'm krista witanowski, i work for ctia. we represent the carriers and we've been working on fighting illegal robocalls for some time. we were significantly involved with the industry robocall strike force, we helped draft that report and after the strike force ended we took on the work and developed a ctia robocall working group that meets every
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week. we are continuingly working on robocall abatement solutions. we are also a member of the fcc's nancy call authentication working group and we are working really hard right now on getting the governance structure for call authentication up and running so we can on board all the industry to fight that. and we're also a february of the fcc's consumer advisory committee who has made as ed bartholme had mentioned many recommendations on call blocking and call @thencation in the last year. i am looking forward to talking about all the great tools that our own carrier members are doing and the wonderful app ecosystem that's out there represented today by the two alexes on the panel. really excited to hear about it. >> i'm nat wood from the federal trade commission where i lead the division of consumer and business education. it's our responsibility for letting regular people understand how to have better
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experiences as consumers and to help businesses comply with consumer protection law and also be protected in the marketplace. >> so to kick it off, talk a little bit about how consumers protect themselves against robocalls and i thought maybe we would start a little bit on the government side and they will thread that in also as we are having our discussions. it is a privilege and honor to work so closely with ftc. terrific things happen, i think, when cross government agencies work together. this is a tough problem and we are all pulling together to solve it. there is terrific information online at the fcc website, we have pamphlets in the back and for those watching over the web if you want to check it out it's the web address there is a lot of terrific information on there about what you can do as a consumer and the resources that are available.
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i would just turn it over to nat to talk a little bit about what ftc is doing. >> what i would tell somebody who is frustrated by unwanted calls is that there are lots of great resources, i'm excited about this panel to hear more about the tools that industry is coming out with and where we are headed with call authentication. a few years ago it wasn't so easy to get this advice, but the services are really effective now and becoming more so all the time. we've put out some information today and for people that are in the room you can get this on the table, for people online you can go to the first thing you want to think about if you want to take advantage of call blocking technology right now is what kind of a phone you are using. if you have a mobile phone, you may want to download an app, some are free, some are provided through the carrier services and see -- the second thing you can do is see if there's built in features from your phone.
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if you have a landline, you may need to buy a device and there are some that use black lists or white lists to limit the calls and make sure only calls you want are getting through. if you have internet phone and many people it's not that easy to tell, check with your carrier. it's a lot of the same sort of advice we give for people that have a mobile phone, there might be blocking services that either stop the calls or have the information show up about whether it's possibly a scam call or a telemarketer or possibly put those messages straight through to voicemail. so i hope you will check those resources out. the do not call registry still has some value, especially in signaling. it's not necessarily going to stop a lot of illegal robocalls, but you know that if you are on the national do not call registry and you get a call from somebody attempting to sell you something that they are not
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respecting the registry. if they are not respecting that law you probably don't want to do business with them. if you get any sort of unwanted robocall, definitely hang up. there's no reason to stay on the line. and keeping yourself informed about the scams that are out there is always a good idea. one of the ways that you can do that is to go to and sign up for scam alerts straight to your e-mail box. >> did you want to say something? >> the telephone consumer protection act not only provides the tools for public enforcement, government enforcement, against robocallers, but it also provides the ability of consumers to hire an attorney and bring an action against robocallers themselves and that's a very valuable tool that people should know about that they can go into court and get $500 for every illegal robocall that they received. >> i would be rich.
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so let's hear a little bit -- i know there is a lot of activity that's been going on across industry and trying to develop solutions to prevent the calls from getting through, the illegal calls from getting through in the first place. so if we could hear a little bit from the service providers and what they are doing and, jim, maybe we will start with you. >> thanks. so like sherwin i have a little bit of tunnel vision around shaken, but i want to just step back and put that into perspective, it's not the first thing that the service providers have done. in a sense basic caller id is a tool for identifying robocalls, calls you don't want to receive, white list, black list built on that, anonymous call rejection, a number of services over the years. of course, a fact or easy spoofing undermine the effectiveness of those as we all see. and that led to the apps, either internal ones as a few service
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providers have internal built apps and of course the third party ones that are represented here today. those help, but again, spoofing makes that -- it makes it harder for them to do their job and that's where shaking comes in. not as a solution, that's an important thing, it's shaken by itself is not a solution, it's an enabling technology that provides reliable information into these apps and can make them fundamentally more effective in the long-term and also help with the enforcement initiatives through the ability that it puts to trace the calls back to the origin in a reliable and -- reliable way. so it's a key enabler is a key thing, but in a long context. >> could i just follow up. could you say a little bit -- is this something that consumer needs to do with their provider and can you say a little bit more about what shaken is, if you are explaining it to a layperson?
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>> you asked a rather long question, but -- so yes. so at its core shaken allows the originating service provider to sign the call and basically to attest to what they know. that's one of the key things. this, all calls that are assigned are not the same. if the service provider knows that that's your number then they can -- consign this is your number. if they don't know it's your number but they know who originated this, this is my customer, i know who they are, i know how to find them if they do something bad, you can do a lower level, a partial attestation that says this is somewhat reliable and then you have the ones where it's a gateway coming in from who knows where, i don't have any idea, but i know where it entered my network which might be very useful both for call blocking and analytics engines and also for tracing. the other thing and then at the
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receiving end that information is verified, it's crypto graphically signed and verified so that you can't mess with it in between. the other key thing is that when that is signed the service provider attaches a unique origination id which is just an opaque string that can be used again in trace back that allows you to identify when you go back to follow up that, yes, i now know exactly where that came from, not just a service provider. and so just cryptographically provides more information about the call, primarily to assist the analytics engines who then add that into the mix of what they already do. >> to help stem the tide. >> precisely. >> krista, maybe you can talk a little bit on the wireless side. >> sure. so since jim focused on call authentication and trace back which are important initiatives we are involved in i'm going to focus on the tools that our wireless carriers have in place now that are not dependent on a customer necessarily down loading an app and then i will get a little bit into the app ecosystem which has exploded over the last couple years.
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so just a few examples. at&t to start they launched a product called at&t call protect. that was back in december 2016, it's a free network service, it allows customers that have iphones and hg voice enabled android hand seths to automatically block suspected fraudulent calls. it flags suspected spam calls so the customer can then choose whether to answer it or not and using an interface provided by the at&t call protect act, they also have an app, customers can manually block an unlimited number of specific telephone numbers for 30-day intervals. you can download the app across the app ecosystem, app stores are on the at&t website. at&t on the wire line side also made call protect available to its ip wire line home phone users and alex from hiya will talk about this but they have
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partnered with hiya through this initiative and they have blocked to date 3.5 billion unwanted robocalls. sprint offers a service as well, premium caller id service, this is on a subscription basis, it includes for android smart phones the ability not only to identify higher percentage of these nuisance calls but it's also an option to block them as well and they work with a company called sequent. t-mobile launched a product called scam id last year in 2017. automatic network based, it's free for post paid t-mobile customers and metro pcs customers. it identifies calls from known scammers across all handset platforms on smart phones and feature phones. if a scam call is detected the caller id will display something
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called "scam likely" on the device, and this gives the customers the option to answer or permanently block the number. there is another product called "scam block" that customers can choose to use, it's also free and that service will allow calls from known scammers blocked. t-mobile is working with a company called privacy star who also has an app in the app marketplace, they have blocked more than 3 billion scam calls tagged since the launch of the product. and verizon right now they are currently trialing a free robocall labeling solution, it's called "spam alerts" and this is for all wire line customers with caller id and this includes copper customers and fios digital voice customers. which is great. the feature is warning customers about robocalls and they also -- it's available to their entire wire lined customer base and a more robust version with
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thousands of additional numbers is going to be in production in the next month. they have also worked with the company that you all know, nomo robo to develop a one click solution that simplifies fios digital voice customers ability to sign up for that third party blocking service and on the wireless side they offer all customers who subscribe to its caller name id service a feature at no additional charge that identifies the spam calls and displays the level of risk with a risk meter. they are working with a company called sequent. besides all those tools that our carriers are in play today, the app ecosystem has exploded in the last two years. in 2016 we studied across the board ios, android, windows and blackberry and at that time there were a lot of apps, over 85 call blocking or labeling
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apps available, but we have recently went through and looked at it again and now there are 550 call blocking or labeling apps available. that is a 495% increase in those apps since we launched our website dedicated to educating consumers on this issue. so i think the marketplace is working with the amount of tools, we still need to work, we need to finish up our work on call authentication, that is key, but i think for now consumers have something to work with until we do finish that. >> i want to hear a little bit about the third party providers and then i want to ask some questions on the consumer side and also margot, your thoughts on the access to some of this. alex, maybe if you could talk a little bit about what you've been doing, what your products are. >> sure. so, again, our company is called hiya and we have apps that users can download directly on to either iphone or android. as krista said there is a lot of
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choice for consumers, there is over 500 apps, i think you shared, which is pretty astounding. and i think the app stores are pretty effective in guiding consumers to which are the more effective versus the less effective apps. i'm not so concerned about that. i'm a little bit concerned. about the fact here in the u.s. market, because we work across borders, in the u.s. market the iphone is a bit crippled relative to what google has done on the android side. for all of us in the room, i could confidently say if you were to download an android app that is well rated you can probably avoid most nuisance calls right away. on iphone, if you're downloading an app you actually have to go through settings. i was just playing on my phone here, settings and a phone menu
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and get down to call blocking identification to make this work. most consumers don't understand that. about half the u.s. market even with the iphones most consumers are unable to activate these services. that's a problem. others on the operator's side, we are very excited to be working with an announced partner and other folks as well. what i am concerned about there though is the industry's ability to find the right solutions. it certainly doesn't have to be ours. it's a competitive marketplace, there are other companies out there. maybe just to be a little bit controversial because i think this is such an important issue, i don't really care if we step on some toes because we have to solve this issue. >> as long as it's not mine. >> one is how soon the spoofing issue is huge.
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and there is a lot that can be done to combat bad callers and spoofing as well, how fast can we move along on this. they're doing great work and we're really eager to see it come out. and talking about how soon can a governing authority be placed into action. that is the foundation that will be that much stronger if the spoofing issue can be dealt with. hundreds of companies are build their services on top of it. >> good. talk about e-mail. >> i want to talk about some of the other apps first and how e-mail difference. the basic goal of the app is to decide if a number is a bad guy.
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that's the default to decide if a number is a bad guy. ey took a slightly different approach. we didn't think hanging up was enough. when we detect somebody is a bad guy, we replaced your voice mail and played the, this number is out of service tone. that stops them from making the call. we took the approach, like a lot of others, you want to try to block this at the source. carriers try to do it at the network level, we try to fool the bad guys. it's not just black and white and easy to say good guy bad guy. irs scammer is a bad guy and cvs telling you your prescription has arrived is a good guy and a huge amount in the middle. debt collectors that call 50 times or those whether they are wanted or not. we took an approach if we think it's in the middle, not sure it's a bad guy we route them to voice mail. we can play the bad greeting and take the middle of the road
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people, throw them into voice mail and let customers decide what they want to do. let consumers decide what they want to do. >> there's plus and minuses having lots of things to choose through. one hand, it's great and the other hand, you're overwhelmed. >> anybody comment on consumers reactions, experiences with this? are they effective? i stumped the panel. >> some have high ratings and some solutions rolled out by the carriers are very effective. we heard from staff that adds up to at least 6 billion phone calls from bad actors being blocked recently. i think there is a lot of work that needs to be done still. i am always concerned about
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maybe some actors, some companies being overly aggressive and too quickly fighting the bad robocallers. basically what's needed is a scalp to ferret out the bad callers from the good ones. i am a bit concerned there might be too many solutions like a bazooka that can prevent good calls from getting through. >> one thing we were surprised to find out that consumers actually want the bazookas. as an antidote on our white list app we have a feature that if it's not in your contacts your phone won't ring. the setting is buried. you have to find it. tap four things. not called white list, we named it badly. we put it out, does anybody want this? turns out more consumers have that on in our app than off.
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that's a bazooka, if it's not somebody i already know, send them to voice mail. >> i'll just note on our web page, the consumer tips page on our website, in order to help consumers parse through it, question listed the top apps, based on user ratings, number of downloads and most recent version date and i attached pdfs of the entire app system platform. i don't pick and choose and i want consumers to decide. there is a way to help consumers try the top-rated ones. >> when ever we give consumer advice we try to play out what we're saying to make sure it's useful. when call-blocking apps first started coming out, even after the fcc challenge we tested it to see if this general advice was useful or not.
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my personal experience a few years ago was downloading a third party app. the call tried to ring through the app opposed to my regular phone app and ultimately we decided we weren't really ready for that. the fact we're saying now really people should check out these apps is kind of significant. there's a few ways people can sort out what's best to them. going to ctia's site to academic a list cur rated can be useful. also, going onto the app stores and type in your carrier with call blocking, you ought to be able to bring some up then. one of the things consumers tell us their price point is zero. the first place a lot of people want to start is see what's offered through their carrier. i have been using a service offered through my carrier. it's night and day from a few years ago. now the call rings through my
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regular phone app, i'm using ios, and labels some calls and blocks others and provides a lot of information. >> i know alex touched on it, a couple of you touched on it, how do you distinguish the bad actors, the things you want to block from the things that should get through? can you say a little bit again not for technical but for consumers about how does this work, so that i make sure, maybe some choose to take the bazooka, but others, you know, like i talked about, maybe this is a call i really wanted to have come through. how do you sort those things? >> we're looking at over 30 and our team in seattle has algorithms to use machine
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techniques, to in a real-time basis, assign a reputation to the caller. it's a very -- it's really a daunting technical challenge. one of the things i'm excited about we don't actually have a so-called blacklist. we are looking at every call as an event on its own. depending what else we've seen on the network we may choose to assign the call a bad or good reputation. the worst kind of reputation is resulting in the call being blocked. very few calls result in being blocked with that reputation. those are the ones that get an i lot of attention and rightly so and that can be dangerous, a fake irs man. we're seeing a 1200% increase this year compared to last year in irs scam.
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there's all these shades of gray. then there's calls we consider spammy or a nuisance nature. it's very subjective. who considers that call nuisance. your party affiliation, fund-raising calls are coming through, there's a 50-50 chance the person wants to receive that call from the party. i think there's been some instance here about school alerts and so forth, of course, that's important to receive those notifications. given our company is premised fighting these bad calls, i think i can say more comfortably, there's other examples, too, debt collectors. i changed my credit card recently and had our service block out the debt collector from get through to me, either my service would have been terminated and i would have been
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surprised by that or credit rating go down the tubes. it's important these calls get through. there's 2,000 people employed in the u.s. and outside and a lot is important. we take this false-positive thing very seriously. our reported false-positive rate is .01%. we're very proud of that. >> i'm particularly interested what are the sorts of things, if you're trying as a service provider, that are the clues this is an unwanted call or illegal call. >> i'm not going to talk about specific clues but step back and talk about how to approach this solution problem to be effective. the key thing is how do you identify the bad actors and how do you identify the good actors who may not look like gobad acts
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if you're not doing the right thing. dr. evil can get a phone number and still be dr. evil and still a bad call. that's part of it but not all of it. you can also be assured as soon as we work out a technique to differentiate good and bad actors, they will change the technique. spoofing works today but when it stops working, they will go to something else. you need too have the stakeholders in the key segments, in the shaken ecosystem and call blocking apps and users that want to get through and stakeholders have to work together to identify the techniques. that's not a one shot thing because as soon as it starts to work they will change. you have to make sure that structure is flexible, ongoing, when they try something
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different you come back, work out what needs to be done and change the way you're doing it on a time scale consistent with their time scale. flexibility and quick response of all the stakeholders is key. if you have that, you're well-positioned. if you don't have that, it's going to end badly. >> so we behaved somewhat similar to hiya, in that we have a dynamic blacklist and white list. the blacklist are factors of behaviors of a given number that makes us believe this particular call from this number is a bad thing and we focus on good calls to let them through, cvs calling with their pharmacy prescription. and we have audio fingerprinting looks at the voice mails in audios left. we can tell when another number is leaving something similar, is
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it good or bad. we know cvs and another caller leaves the same sort of message and know that's a cvs number. they've been looking at context in determining good, bad or in between. >> i want to talk a little bit about the difference between good and bad. there may be some difference of opinion which group different callers fit. looking at u mail's robocall index, the top 20 robocallers in february in the nation, 16 of them were debt collectors. where not two looked like scammers. 16 were debt collectors. according to many debt collectors' manuals, they will call as many as 10 time as day to collect each account. many student loan borrowers have eight accounts, so they're
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subject to getting 80 calls a day from a debt collector. is that debt collector a good or a bad guy? i'll just leave it at that. >> depends whether there is a debt. >> even if there is a debt, 80 calls a day may be too much. >> yeah. absolutely. anybody else on the distinction? the solutions i mentioned from the start, the number looks like it comes from new york, spoofing, are the things we've been talking about effective against spoofing? how does that come into play? >> there's a bit of a myth out there nothing can be done against spoofing until shaken takes place, is fully implemented. i think we need to get it in place as quickly as possible. we're seeing almost 30% of
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nuisance calls today are the so-called neighbor spoofing scam. these are typically scam calls. if you're not familiar with it, it is basically, these bad actors call you, whatever number you have, and the original number has the same six digits in the beginning. sometimes they replicate your own number and they call you from your own number and people are curious to see who's calling. usually, it's the first six digits. we have techniques to ferret that out. the clumsy technique would be to block any call that comes in from the first six digits. you might block out people who happen to randomly have a similar phone number to you. i can't tell you what technique we're use because if any of those guys are watching this
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video -- >> i'm sure they wouldn't. >> that technique would no longer be effective. that is an example of spoofing where actually, you know, if you're smart about how you go about it you can actually block out those calls. >> to build on alex point you can build on a lot on shaken. the way i look at shaken, very effective techniques built today, in many sense because of spoofing has weaknesses and shaken is providing a foundation for those things. the same apps but do a more powerful assessment. talking about as an enabler. we don't have to wait for it but i'm sure it will help. >> we're already seeing the neighborhood spoofers get smarter to change the definition of a neighborhood.
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usually the first six digits match and then five match and then four. it's become a problem. what's happening with our user base, they're deciding, i'd rather white list. too many calls getting through, i don't want them anymore. i will restrict my contacts. anybody else i can't to hear from again i will put in my contacts. consumers are taking it in their own hands and handling that problem. >> let's talk about id call authentication. where are we on that and what's involved in accomplishing it? >> it's again, step back. it was in january of 2017, it was published. shortly after that, partnered with new star to provide a shaken test bed available to the
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industry. that is continuing to be available at no cost as of today. we've had, as of recently, we had over a half-dozen vendors or providers who completed testing, a similar number actively in the process of testing and others watching and getting ready. all of that is proceeding in terms of the infrastructure to deploy that. in terms of the governance authority we issued the governance, shaken governor framework document the middle of last year. our intention when we did that, frankly by about now we would have it set up and get the processes in place. i talked about the need for the various stakeholders to share information and work together, work how we respond to that. that's the kind of thing that would do. to be honest, the trust anchor
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notice of inquiry kind of slowed that down a little bit. wire not set up and running now. we're hoping that the cada working group finishes up its work over the next month or so that will get that process up and running. really, the key thing here is because of that need for all the stakeholders to be involved, to understand each other's problems and perspectives and be prepared working for the bad guys, you need the government's authority up and running before it's deployed in the network. you don't want to deploy it and have it managed after. >> i encourage the carriers to get on board and testing if you haven't tested already.
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as far as the nancy work we're working on it for recommendations by may of this year. i'm hoping the fcc takes the recommendation whatever it is because we haven't finished it to set up that governing structure as quickly as possible to get this going. >> so, i think we heard this question on the last panel really focused more on the enforcement side, what do we do after it happens to discourage it through enforcement. what from your perspective can the government do to encourage development of solutions across the board to anyone? >> i was going to say, i think what the goal should be is a vibrant ecosystem of different apps. carriers should do what they can do. you really want a bunch of different apps because that's where the innovation is taking
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place. i look at all apps all the time because there's different ideas how to get that ecosystem. the main way is providing access to the platforms, driving the carriers to open more things up to the apps to have the data they use or network elements they can use to drive the hand seth makers and carriers to mak these apps. like alex gave a great example on the iphone where it is really a bear to turn on blocking. he left out that apple has a fixed list. you can have up to i think a million and a half numbers you have to load as an app into the iphone to say don't let these things rings, block these things. that's a crazy way to do it versus android which lets apps get into the middle of a call and hang up, although android has its own set of problems there. i think getting the government to help push these folks into driving an ecosystem would be good for everybody, because i think you never know where the next great solution is going to
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be. >> so it is interesting to me that the engineers think the fix is with the engineering and the lawyers think the fix is with the law. >> welcome to my life. >> actually, as a lawyer i think the fix is with the engineering. but the law still has a very important place. >> of course. >> as was mentioned in the previous panel, there was a decision last week by the dc circuit court that really throws the definition of auto dialer back to the fcc. that is a really critical question that will have tremendous ramifications about what types of calls are considered covered by that consumer protection law. if the fcc moves forward as the calling industry would like it to and does not include within that definition many of the call -- many of the types of equipment that are currently generating the calls, then those
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calls won't be covered by that law and all of the human -- all of the calls on which a human is actually talking to the receiver, the person who is getting the call, there will be no coverage, no ability -- no requirement that the consumer has to consent. much more importantly, no ability of the consumer to say " "stop calling me" and have a law require that that caller stop calling. as i described a minute ago with the debt collection calls, the ability to -- for a consumer to be able to say stop calling for these automated calls is really a critical consumer protection, whether that caller is in the white list or the gray list or the black list. the ftc rules, which are also very important, do not cover these robocalls that have a human at the end. they only cover prerecorded and
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artificial voice. so the whole burden really will be on the federal communications commission to make sure to cover these calls so the consumers have some ability to control them. >> got it. >> i don't have an opinion on enforcement, but i think in terms of what the fcc and ftc have been doing, as a newcomer to d.c., i mean we're pretty much holed up in our little tech bubble, and on the west coast most of the time. it has been really nice to see what an effective spark was -- you know, took place a couple of years ago here and, you know, it has stoked all sorts of good conversation around spoofing and, you know, action is taking place now. i am a little bit concerned about there being maybe too much discourse about coverage or, you know, the ability to -- to detect these bad callers and
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maybe not as much on -- on the false positives. we're taking a very long-term view at this, and i ultimately want there to be as much innovation and, you know, solutions available to customers. but, you know, i think there was an example just recently with self-driving car, you know, hitting someone and new that's, you know, shut down innovation for, you know, temporarily for self-driving cars. i can think of, you know, all sorts of awful scenarios that would take place if too many calls are blocked, and i'm not going to give specific examples but they are, you know, some of them are actually life or death. i don't think that it is necessarily government's role to enforce how this happens, but i think just elevating the cost of false positives more into the discussion i think would be
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really healthy to make sure that, you know, noefg wiinnovat continue in the long run as rapidly as possible. >> yeah. >> information sharing is really important and valuable. i think a specific area where continuing to have a conversation among industry and industry associations and government will be in the labelling of calls. there's been some really interesting work that's going on. it will be even more important as the new call authentication standards come into effect so that people understand that if they get a green or a yellow or a red what that means and they it not be unique across every type of device. the other kind of information sharing that's really important is the actual data about calls and what people are reporting. we're really happy that we've been able to take the information that people report to us. it is really important that if people have a bad experience, experience a scammy call to report it to
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we are now making that information available as was mentioned earlier on a daily basis to help make the algorithm smarter, better inform the black lists. you know, both types of information sharing are really important. >> good. we're down to the last few minutes we're scheduled for our panel. any final thoughts that you wanted the add that we didn't cover? >> i'm just glad the lawyers and the engineers are all on the same panels. >> well, just ask one -- go ahead. >> just say that it is really exciting, the amount of innovation. lois and i go back to having worked on the national to not call registry, which is now 15 or more years ago. we get it. it doesn't stop unwanted calls now. but we feel like we've come into an area where there's a lot of really promising technologies that are doing that and are
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going to do it even better. so we hope people, you know, regular people will take advantage of those and check out some of these apps and services and devices. if they go to they can learn how to do it and go to places like ctia and check out some of the apps and the app stores, and they're going to give them a good result. >> i would just say the work is not done and we're going to continue working at it with partnership with the fcc, ftc, the wire line, wireless industry, everyone at this table, the third party app developers. unfortunately, the illegal robocallers are going to keep at it, and so we can't just sit on our laurels even after call authentication gets up and running, even with the 550 apps out there, we got to keep fighting every day. >> go ahead. >> i would actually support that totally. this is a long haul. it will get better, it probably will unfortunately take longer
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than we would like. we need to keep at it. one of the things that i always push when people talk about solutions to this problem, i think it is the wrong mindset. this is a long struggle we need to keep working at. again, it will get better but it will never be, quote, unquote, solved. so let's keep going. >> i won't yield until it gets solved. it will be an ongoing battle. i want to thank the panelists, and it is encouraging, all of the work that has been done. there's progress being made. i know we're still, you know, working to try to have the numbers turn in the opposite direction. >> that we can do. >> it just underscores the importance i think of government, industry, third-party providers and all of the stakeholders, the consumer interest as well, all pulling together to tackle this problem. so thank you. give you a round of applause.
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