November 15, 2019
LANSING – A powerful force of state and federal partners joined Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today in Lansing to kick off a sweeping crackdown on illegal robocalls targeting the state’s residents.
Highlighting the fact that Michigan residents have been on the receiving end of 1.3 billion robocalls in 2019 to date, Nessel said it is time to take action.
“There is nothing more annoying, more intrusive, uninvited and unwelcome than robocalls,” Nessel said. “Because of that bombardment of calls, more and more Michiganders end up falling victim to the avalanche of illegal robocall scams targeting them each day. We are working to put a stop to that starting right now.
“Today, not only are we announcing Michigan’s Robocall Crackdown Team, we are positioning Michigan as the leading state in cracking down on the overwhelming amount of illegal robocalls targeting our residents,” Nessel added. “We’re also sending a clear message that illegal robocalls are not welcome here.”
As part of the crackdown, Nessel unveiled 12 initiatives designed to get at the root of the issue and begin putting a halt to illegal robocall scammers in Michigan. The comprehensive, four-pronged approach includes educating Michigan residents on the issue, stricter enforcement of existing laws, legislative work to strengthen Michigan law, and developing a roadmap for other states to follow.
The initiatives have drawn support from several organizations, including AARP of Michigan, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Better Business Bureaus of Southeastern and Western Michigan, the Elder Law and Disability Rights Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Michigan Association for Local Public Health (MALPH), the Telecommunications Association of Michigan (TAM), and USTelecom – The Broadband Association.
“The FCC is committed to working with Michigan’s leaders to help consumers fight back against malicious robocalls,” said Lisa Hone, deputy bureau chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau.
“We applaud AG Nessel and the state of Michigan for its leadership in cracking down on illegal robocalls,” said Patrick Halley (pro: Hal-ee), Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy at USTelecom. “The USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Group works daily, in conjunction with federal and state enforcement authorities, to track down the source of illegal robocall campaigns. Our collective success depends on aggressive government enforcement efforts and we look forward to further collaboration with Michigan in this important effort.”
“Many of the members of my association are community-based companies whose employees live and work in the communities they serve,” Telecommunications Association of Michigan President Scott Stevenson said. “The personal relationships and proximity they have with their customers gives them an extra incentive to protect them from scam calls. That’s why we are grateful for Attorney General Nessel’s focus on this issue. We look forward to working with her and everyone in this room to help give customers the tools they need to avoid becoming victims of illegal robocallers.”
“The Better Business Bureau team is honored to work with the Michigan Attorney General’s office to combat robocalls,” said Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern and Western Michigan CEOs Melanie Duquesnel (pro: Duke-a-nel) and Phil Catlett. “Illegal robocalls and the scammers who use them not only harm victims financially, but they erode trust in our community and businesses. It is critical that we do all we can to help educate the public and fight to shut down these illegal calls.”
In addition to the initiatives, Michigan has signed a formal agreement with the FCC to share enforcement information on robocalls.
“We look forward to continuing our joint efforts to combat deceptive caller ID spoofing, to use our Enforcement Bureau’s formal agreement with Michigan to share law enforcement information related to robocalls, and to coordinate our respective teams’ robocall policy and consumer engagement work,” Hone said. “I thank Attorney General Nessel for her leadership and her commitment to working with us to protect Michiganders from scams.”
"Local health departments across the state are taking this matter very seriously as a trusted community source for individuals, families, schools, hospitals, churches, and business,” said Meghan Swain, MALPH executive director. “We applaud Attorney General Nessel's and Michigan's Robocall Crackdown Team and its swift response to protect our communities. We look forward to continuing our partnership to address this issue."
AARP of Michigan State Director Paula D. Cunningham added that while some robocalls are wanted, the majority aren’t – and they often target Michigan seniors.
“We appreciate robocalls that let you know your prescription is ready,” said Cunningham. “But unfortunately, scammers increasingly are using robocalls to get victims to reveal private information that can be used to take their money. Many of these victims are older adults. We support the crackdown on these kinds of calls.”
Michigan’s State Bar Elder Law and Disability Rights Section Chair Kelly Quardokus added it’s important we strengthen our laws to better protect our vulnerable senior population and all residents impacted by this issue.
“Our ever-changing technology can have harmful effects,” Quardokus (pro: Quar-doe-cuss) said. “Robocalls are often used as preferred tools of scammers and those who prey on seniors and vulnerable adults for financial gain. It’s important to work collaboratively to identify and address these emerging issues and change laws to protect all Michigan citizens but especially those targeted (such as seniors). The Elder Law and Disability Rights Section of the State Bar of Michigan is excited and committed to working with the Attorney General’s leadership on this important initiative.”
In addition to the initiatives and cooperation agreement with the FCC, Nessel also unveiled a one-stop online resource for Michigan residents to better understand the pervasive issue and spot ways to stop illegal robocalls. The website – mi.gov/robocalls – includes recordings of common illegal robocalls, a variety of educational handouts, and a list of up-to-date scams targeting Michigan residents and Americans across the nation.
Nessel urged Michigan residents to report all illegal robocalls to her office by filing a complaint on the new one-stop online website for all information about illegal robocalls at mi.gov/robocalls, or by calling 877-765-8388.
Michigan’s Robocall Crackdown Team will hold a series of presentations on illegal robocalls starting in 2020. A schedule will be issued at a later date.