Minnesota joins federal and state law enforcement partners in new crackdown on illegal robocalls

New enforcement sweep targets those who distributed or facilitated billions of illegal calls

FTC provides consumer resources on how to identify and block illegal robocalls; Minnesotans encouraged to report illegal robocalls to AGO

July 18, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other law enforcement partners nationwide, including attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, announced a new crackdown on illegal robocalls, targeting operations responsible for billions of calls to U.S. consumers. 

The joint state and federal “Operation Stop Scam Calls” initiative builds on the efforts of Minnesota and other state and federal partners to combat the scourge of illegal robocalls. This initiative targets robocallers and the companies that enable them as well as lead generators who deceptively collect and provide consumers’ telephone numbers to robocallers and others, falsely representing that these consumers have consented to receive calls. It also targets Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers who facilitate tens of billions of illegal robocalls every year, which often originate overseas.   

“Everybody hates robocalls — and everybody gets them, including me. Minnesotans file more complaints about robocalls with our office than about any other single problem. When it’s tough to afford your life, the last thing any of us needs is a scammer coming at us,” Attorney General 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.”  

“Today, government agencies at all levels are united in fighting the scourge of illegal telemarketing. We are taking action against those who trick people into phony consent to receive these calls and those who make it easy and cheap to place these calls,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, who appeared at a news conference in Chicago today announcing the initiative. “The FTC and its law enforcement partners will not rest in the fight against illegal telemarketing.”  

Attorney General Ellison is committed to fighting the scourge of illegal robocalls and since he took office, has been active with national partners in doing so. In August 2022, Attorney General Ellison joined a multistate investigation into 20 so-called gateway providers that are allegedly responsible for enabling much of the robocall traffic in the United States, as part of the then-newly formed Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force. In May 2023, he joined 48 states and the District of Columbia in suing Avid Telecom for generating more than 7.5 billion illegal robocalls to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, the first lawsuit to arise from the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force. 

In August 2019, Attorney General Ellison joined 51 state attorneys general and 12 telecoms providers in adopting a set of principles to fight robocalls. Out of these principles have come free call-blocking and the common identification by providers of likely scam calls, both of which protect consumers and limit scammers access to them. 

Minnesota’s actions build on the work of its state and federal partners including the FTC, which announced five new cases against companies and individuals responsible for distributing or assisting in the distribution of billions of illegal telemarketing calls to consumers nationwide.  

Other contributing law enforcers include the U.S. Department of Justice, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Communications Commission. 

Federal resources to help consumers block unwanted calls 

In addition to the law enforcement actions announced today, the FTC has a variety of materials aimed at helping consumers block unwanted telemarketing calls. This includes advice related to robocalls and other unwanted calls and information on how to spot and avoid phone scams at ftc.gov/calls, which is also available in Spanish at ftc.gov/llamadas. The FTC also has a new educational webpage at ftc.gov/RobocallScams that includes examples of real illegal robocalls and steps people can take to avoid robocall scams. 

The scourge of robocalls and tips for avoiding them 

According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, over 33 million scam robocalls are made to Americans every day. These scam calls include Social Security Administration fraud against seniors, Amazon scams against consumers, and many other scams targeting all consumers, including those who are most vulnerable. Scammers stole an estimated $29.8 billion dollars through scam calls in 2021 alone.  

Most of this scam robocall traffic originates overseas. The Task Force is focused on shutting down the providers that profit from this illegal scam traffic and refuse to take steps to otherwise mitigate these scam calls.   

Attorney General Ellison offers the following tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls:  

Attorney General Ellison continues to encourages Minnesotans who have received scam robocalls or been victimized by them to contact or file a complaint with his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro area), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota) or online.

“I encourage anyone who receives a scam robocall to make a note of the number and report it to my office, because it will help us trace those numbers back and hold accountable those responsible for enabling scammers,” Attorney General Ellison continued. “And if you’ve been scammed, don’t be ashamed, because these scammers are professionals who are very good at what they do. And don’t stay silent — that’s what scammers want you to do. Instead, report it to my office: we may be able to help you, and by reporting it, you will help us get to the root of the problem and stop it.”  

“Don’t hang on — hang up” 

“Above all, don’t hang on — hang up. We Minnesotans are polite folks who don’t like hanging up on others, even when they’re being rude or we suspect they’re trying to scam us. But scammers don’t deserve our politeness or respect, so protect yourself and your family and hang up immediately,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.