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FCC Recommends Three-Digit Crisis Hotline

August 16, 2019

Following five and a half years of hard work and perseverance by the Utah Attorney General’s Office and Utah state and federal legislators, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to move forward with changing the ten-digit national suicide hotline to a three-digit number – 988. The hotline will also be available to those who are struggling with mental health crises of any kind.

Yesterday afternoon, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics announced that they sent a report to Congress which recommends that the Commission consider designating 988 as a replacement to the current number, 1-800-273-8255.

This follows the 2018 report on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 which recommended that a three-digit number should be used for the crisis hotline. Suicide and mental health numbers have increased over the years, causing an influx of callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. According to the FCC, 2.2 million people called the hotline in 2018.

“Our team found that a 3-digit number would make it easier for Americans in crisis to reach someone who could help,” Ajit Pai, the FCC’s chairman, said in an email statement on Thursday night. “If we can stand up ‘988’ nationwide as a way to access suicide prevention services, we believe it could save lives. I’ll do everything I can to move this forward.”

Utah Senator Dan Thatcher first conceived the idea for a three-digit suicide prevention line in 2012, but it didn’t gain traction in the Legislature at that time. Senator Thatcher partnered with the Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Wade Farraway, Missy Larsen, and others at the Utah Attorney General’s Office in 2014. The group started the SafeUT app as a way to reach Utahns in crisis while still campaigning for the three-digit number. In 2017, the group enlisted the help of Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who presented the idea on the federal level. This has led to the recommendation of the three-digit number 988.

The change has not yet been implemented and will have a months-long process. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or contemplating suicide, please use the SafeUT app to speak with a crisis counselor for free or call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Utah AG Joins National Effort Urging the FCC to Take Action Against Robocalls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2019

Utah Attorney General Joins National Effort Urging the FCC to Take Action Against Robocalls, Caller ID Spoofing

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 42 attorneys general, calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take further action to stop the growing proliferation of illegal robocalls and spoofing.

The attorneys general delivered formal legal comments to the FCC urging the adoption of its proposed caller ID spoofing rules and enforcement. These rules specifically address calls to the United States that originated from overseas and includes spoofing in text messaging and alternative voice services. These provisions included in the FCC appropriations authorization bill are also known as the RAY BAUM’s Act of 2018.

From the comments to the FCC:

The exponential growth in unlawful scam robocalls is putting more and more of our vulnerable populations at risk. The Commission’s new rules cannot come soon enough.

“Not only are these robocalls and spoof phone calls annoying, they’re illegal,” said Attorney General Reyes. “As Attorney General, I call on the FCC to take immediate action in order to protect Utah consumers from scams that too often victimize our citizens.”
 
Francine A. Giani, Executive Director for the Utah Department of Commerce stated, “The Utah Department of Commerce, Division of Consumer Protection supports all efforts to combat deceptive spoofing, bogus text messages and illegal robocalls pinging consumers’ phones. These phony scams continue to be a huge problem where too many consumers are losing money, so let’s look for solutions.”
 
The number of spoofed calls and the consumer financial losses tied to these scams have increased by nearly 50 percent in recent years. The offices of the Utah Attorney General and the Utah Department of Commerce receive many complaints about these calls every month.
 
Robocalls increased in the U.S. by 57 percent from 2017 to 2018. Additionally, in 2018, the FCC reports that Americans received almost 18 billion scam robocalls resulting in nearly $488 million lost.
 
The coalition sending formal comments to the FCC was led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and included Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

# # #  

NOTES:
1. A copy of the comments to the FCC from the 42 state attorneys general can be found here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/FCC-Spam-Spoofing-petition.pdf.

Battling illegal robocalls & spoofing

November 19, 2018

Illegal robocalls and spoofing have cost Americans billions of dollars in fraudulent claims. According to a study by Truecaller, Americans lost $9.5 billion in 2017 to robocall and spoofing scams, and it’s only expected to increase. 

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 34 other state AGs urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules that would require service providers to block illegally spoofed calls or help identify a potential scam for consumers. In the letter, the state AGs reaffirmed their commitment to providing public education, responding to consumer complaints, and taking appropriate action when needed – but it’s not enough. The AGs strongly recommended the FCC explore ways to identify technology that could combat fraudulent calls and utilize every tool available to help protect Americans. 

You can read the letter from the AGs here: A Letter to the FCC About Robocalls.

Deputy Attorney General David Sonnenreich had the opportunity to visit with Lori Prichard of KSL-TV on behalf of the Office of the Utah Attorney General to discuss robocalls, steps federal and state leaders are taking, and what you can do in the meantime to protect yourself. 

You can find more information on the FCC’s push to combat robocalls and spoofing and tips to protect yourself here

Photo by rawpixel

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