Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is battling “the scourge of robocalls” as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Agit Pai labeled those annoying and sometimes illegal calls.

Since announcing her office’s Robocall Crackdown Team (RCT) last November, Nessel said more than 1,700 members have enlisted in the effort. Since that time, more than 1,800 robocall complaints have been filed, and the Robocall Complaint Form is the most visited page on the Attorney General’s website.

Nessel’s RCT was established to perform investigations into major robocalling operations; coordinate with the telecommunications industry to trace and eliminate illegal robocalls; and assist the state legislature in the drafting of new laws to identify and punish robocallers.

The RCT has prompted the support from such organizations as AARP of Michigan, the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, 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, the Telecommunications Association of Michigan (TAM), and USTelecom – The Broadband Association.

“Michigan is stepping up to help put an end to illegal robocalls,” Nessel said in a statement. “Robocall scammers are not only a nuisance, they are preying on the pocketbooks of good honest people, and that has to stop.”

The AG’s office announced the complaints compiled from Michigan residents are being used to open investigations into the robocall perpetrators.  

According to an AG press release, more than 1.5 billion robocalls targeted Michigan residents in 2019. The FCC reports the agency is bombarded by more than 200,000 complaints annually related to unwanted calls. Additionally, according to the FCC, some analysts estimate U.S. residents fielded approximately 4 billion robocalls each month in 2018.

“Robocallers will continue to adjust their approaches to scam us, and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to expose them,” Nessel said. “The public can be instrumental in our investigations through our Robocall Crackdown Team and each day we’re continuing to learn more about how these bad actors operate.”

The AG website reminds consumers that the best way to deal with unwanted robocalls is to simply hang up or refrain from answering calls from unrecognized phone numbers. The top three complaints received by the AG’s office include auto warranties; Social Security scams; and offers to lower interest rates.

Those who submit a complaint to the AG office’s investigation, however, are asked to provide the robocaller’s phone number; supply the complainant’s phone number and service carrier; include the date and time of the robocall; note whether the robocaller was attempting to sell goods or services worth at least $25; and identify the topic of the robocall. Topics might include, for example, student loans, Social Security numbers and Internal Revenue Service fines and collections.

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,” Cunningham said in a statement. “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.”

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.