Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today an initiative to combat robocalls in Washington state. The Attorney General’s Office created a new complaint form for Washingtonians tailored for reporting robocalls.
Additionally, as part of an effort to educate and inform Washingtonians, the Attorney General’s Office launched a website with descriptions of robocalls and telemarketing scams, including strategies for combating them.
Today’s launch is a continuation of the Attorney General’s work to stop illegal robocalls. In the past two years, Ferguson filed three lawsuits aimed at holding illegal robocallers accountable.
- In October 2021, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a Corvallis, Ore.-based company, Global Grid Telecom, and its owner for illegally robocalling Washingtonians more than 54,000 times with deceptive recorded messages. Ironically, the calls attempted to sell a purported robocall-blocking service. The case is ongoing.
- In March 2021, two companies that made more than 1.7 million robocalls into Washington paid $495,000 to legitimate charities as a result of a lawsuit by Ferguson, 39 other attorneys general and the FTC.
- In August 2020, as a result of the Attorney General’s lawsuit, a King County Superior Court judge ordered Vancouver, Wash.-based air duct cleaning companies and their owner to pay civil penalties of $10 million. US Air Ducts & Sky Builders and DLM Services Inc. made over 13 million robocalls within Washington state from 2017 to 2019, including calling more than 500 individual Washingtonians over 100 times.
Robocalls are a type of phone call that comes from automated systems where computers play a recorded message when someone answers the phone or when it goes to voicemail.
“Robocalls are more than just annoying — they can also be illegal,” Ferguson said. “Many of our cases are based on tips we receive from Washingtonians. If robocalls are harassing you, please file a complaint with my office.”
Prior to the creation of the specific complaint form for robocalls, Washingtonians could report any suspicious calls through the Attorney General’s Office general consumer complaint form. The creation of a specific complaint form for robocalls will give attorneys, investigators and staff more precise information for quicker reaction to complaints.
The robocall complaint form includes specific questions for reporting the details of a suspicious call to help our office better track and discover patterns for robocalls in the state — and prevent other Washingtonians from getting more illegal calls. Even if illegal robocallers fake their caller identification, the Attorney General’s Office has resources to track these calls when Washingtonians report their telephone number, telephone provider and the exact time and date of the call.
Washingtonians who suspect they have received an illegal robocall can now report the call here: https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/robocallForm.aspx.
An informational website about robocalls and telemarketing scams is here: https://www.atg.wa.gov/robocall-and-telemarketing-scams
Washingtonians can also report illegal telemarketing or other types of phone scams via the general consumer complaint form here: https://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint
Washingtonians can also make complaints about robocalls to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In February alone, the FTC received 6,075 complaints from Washingtonians regarding telephone solicitations.
Signs of a scam
- Caller asks for personal information. A legitimate caller should never ask for your password, social security number or bank account number. Scammers ask for your personal information to steal your money or identity.
- An offer that seems too good to be true. If the message on the call advertises something for free or at low cost, it is likely a scam.
- Request payment other than credit card. Scammers usually ask for payment with a gift card, online money transfer or other payment method that is hard to track. Resist any pressure to send immediate payment, or hang up.
- Threats, scare tactics. Some robocallers threaten individuals with cutting off their utilities, filing legal complaints against them or other actions to get them to send in money or call them back. The government or a legitimate business will generally send a letter if there is a legal issue or a problem with an account.
What to do if you suspect a robocall scam
- Do not trust your Caller ID. Scammers can fake, or “spoof,” the name and number that appears on your caller ID, making it look like the call is from an unknown number, legitimate business, government agency or local number.
- Do not answer the call. If you do not recognize a phone number, you can let the call go to voicemail.
- Hang up. If you answer a call and it seems like it is a robocall, hang up immediately.
- Do not pay for or accept any offers. Scammers will try to pressure you to make a decision without doing any research or talking to friends or family who may help identify a scam. Don't make any decisions under pressure.
- Resist the urge to call back or confront the caller. Individuals who call robocallers or scammers back can end up on a list of people who answer the calls then get more calls.
- Block. You can call your telephone service provider to see what options are available to block phone numbers associated with robocalls and telemarketing scams.
- Report. Report any robocalls or other suspicious calls you receive to the Attorney General’s Office.
Some robocalls may give you an option to opt out of receiving future calls, but if the caller is a scammer, they are unlikely to honor your request. However, you can add your number to the national “Do Not Call” registry (https://www.donotcall.gov/) to reduce the number of annoying telemarketing calls.
A few types of robocalls are allowed without permission. These include political calls about candidates, charities asking for donations or any message that is purely informational, like calls about a flight status or school closure.
Some robocalls or telemarketers may come from legitimate charitable organizations, but it is wise to contact the Washington Secretary of State's Charitable Division at 1-800-332-4483, or visit their website, to make sure any charity is registered with the state before you give money or credit card information.
Source: Washington State Attorney General