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Taking On Telephone Torture



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Kudos to voice service providers AT&T Services Inc; CenturyLink; Comcast; Bandwidth Inc; Charter Communications; Consolidated Communication Inc; Frontier Communications Inc; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; US Cellular; Verizon; and Windstream Services LLC that joined in recent months with Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and 50 other Attorneys General to form a bipartisan public/private coalition to combat the insidious robocalls that torment people nationwide.

Robocalls and telemarketing calls are the number one source of customer complaints to Attorneys General offices, as well as to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trades Commission. No doubt they are the number one source of irritation in every household.

Robocalls and telemarketers endlessly disrupt and harass anyone with any kind of communication device. Nearly 48 billion robocalls were made in the US in 2018, and 533 million robocalls were placed in Connecticut alone that year. A May 2019 survey by the AARP found that 57 percent of Connecticut resident receive at least seven unwanted calls a week — a number that many would dispute as being grossly understated — with many of these being “neighbor spoofing,” meaning that the caller ID appears to be the number of someone known or close enough that people are tricked into answering.

What is tragic about these pesky phone calls is their predatory nature.

The AARP reports that half of Connecticut adults may fall victims to scam phone calls, resulting in identity loss, financial loss, and causing anxiety when linked to supposed family emergencies. Challenging the validity of a suspicious call can lead to responses of profanity and unprofessional behavior, further identifying the caller as fraudulent.

The Attorneys General and service providers have come up with a plan of prevention and enforcement that hopes to curtail (or dare we hope, eliminate?) these harassing phone calls.

Among the eight principles offered, service providers will make free call blocking available for cell phones, analyze voice network traffic, investigate suspicious calls, and cooperate with the Attorneys General regarding scams and other illegal activities detected. This cooperative effort will lead to identification and prosecution of offenders.

Curtailing the number of fraudulent calls demands some cooperation with the public, as well. According to the AARP survey, over three-quarters of Connecticut residents do not use robocall blocking services, such as Nomorobo, and less than a quarter of residents are registered with the National Do Not Call list. Find out from providers what call blocking services are available and implement one. Reducing the number of calls received will lessen the possibility of criminal activity and provide some relief from unwanted solicitations.

If suspicious calls are received, report them to the provider, as well as to the office of the Attorney General at dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint.

We are fortunate to have law enforcement willing to work with service providers. Implementing the principles of this cooperative effort will not be immediate, and overseas scammers may be a greater challenge, but just knowing that the problem is being seriously addressed offers hope.

Residents of our community, state, and nation deserve to not live in dread of a ringing phone.

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