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Great Lakes states join new national coalition against robocallers

(The Center Square) – The Attorneys General of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan have joined a nationwide coalition to crack down on illegal telemarketing.

According to a news release from the Federal Trade Commission, the commission and attorneys general from all states have united for “Operation Stop Spam Calls.” The initiative targets telemarketers and companies that hire them; lead generators who deceptively collect and provide consumers’ phone numbers to robocallers and others, falsely saying the consumers consented to receive the calls; and Voice over Internet Protocol service providers who facilitate illegal robocalls.

“Michigan residents received more than 1.2 billion robocalls in 2021, many of them illegal scam calls,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a news release. “But there has been a substantial reduction in the number of complaints reported to the FTC because our efforts to combat robocalls have resulted in an increase in the number of Michigan registrations on the Do Not Call List. Our Department’s Robocall Task Force, formed in 2019, has helped the national effort to reduce the number of unwanted calls Michigan residents receive. We have also shut down some robocall operations targeting Michigan and will continue to work to protect residents from these intrusive and often illegal calls.”

Nessel won judgments shutting down a Texas-based robocall operation that in 2019 bombarded Michigan consumers with more than 42 million robocalls, including more than 19 million calls to people whose numbers were on the Do Not Call Registry. Her office has resources about robocall prevention and response here.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the state’s residents’ most common complaint to his office is about robocalls.

“When it’s tough to afford your life, the last thing any of us needs is a scammer coming at us,” Ellison said. “Minnesota is continuing to join forces in this fight with the federal government, attorneys general, and law enforcement around the country. We’re going to keep at it until every Minnesota is safe from this scourge.”

He said residents who have received scam robocalls or been victimized by them should continue to contact or file a complaint with his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro area), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota) or online. Reporting the number helps his office trace the numbers and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Ellison joined a multistate investigation in August 2022 regarding “gateway providers” that are allegedly responsible for most of the robocall traffic in the U.S, his office’s news release said. In May 2023, he joined 48 states and the District of Columbia in the lawsuit against Avid Telecom, which was the first lawsuit to arise from the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski said in a news release that telemarketing is among the state’s top consumer complaint categories every year. The department has given 152 presentations in the last year that educated consumers on the use of robocalls to perpetrate scams and fraud.

“Consumers are their own first line of defense, but the work of DATCP and its partners in the Wisconsin Department of Justice and FTC is vital to addressing the troublesome number of illegal calls they receive,” Romanski said. “Fewer scam calls means fewer scam victims.”

Wisconsin residents can contact the department to learn more about scams and how to file a complaint by calling (800) 422-7128 or emailing [email protected].​

Iowa’s Attorney General Brenna Bird’s office’s spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to The Center Square’s request for comment Wednesday.

According to the FTC’s listing of states’ fights against robocallers, Iowa’s actions include being part of the new operation and the Avid Telecom lawsuit.

FTC announced Tuesday five new cases against companies and individuals responsible for distributing or assisting in the distribution of billions of illegal telemarketing calls to consumers nationwide. FTC has advice related to robocalls and phone scams at ftc.gov/calls. The advice is available in Spanish at ftc.gov/llamadas.

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