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What is Utah doing about illegal, annoying robocalls, telemarketing scams?

SALT LAKE CITY β€” Utah has joined 40 states in an effort to combat illegal robocalls, 187 million of which were made to Utahns last year.

Attorney General Sean Reyes is part of a coalition of attorneys general reviewing the technology major telecom companies are pursuing to stop or reduce illegal robocalls.

β€œTo be clear, we are not talking about First Amendment protected robocalls like political messages or calls from bona fide charities. While some find these calls annoying, they are legal,” he said.

But, Reyes said, if the recording is a sales pitch and the recipient has not provided authorization, the call is illegal.

Many robocalls fake the caller ID information to trick people into answering, a practice called "spoofing," which is also illegal, he said.

"These calls often harm our most vulnerable populations with scams and improper business practices," he said.

The Utah Department of Commerce regularly receives reports of robocalls to Utahns. It investigates complaints and has in some instances successfully taken legal action against callers pitching student loan debt consolidation, vacation packages, solar energy and timeshare resales, among other areas.

Many robocalls originate overseas or use spoofed numbers, making it difficult if not impossible to track down scammers and get consumers' money back, said Francine Giani, commerce department executive director.

Americans lost $9.5 billion to robocall and spoofing scams in 2017, according to study by Truecaller, a phone number lookup service. Nearly 1 in 10 adults (9 percent) lost money from a phone scam in the past 12 months, with men reporting being victimized more than women.

Reyes said the coalition of states is working with telecom companies to understand what is technologically feasible to minimize unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarketing. The group is encouraging the companies to expedite solutions and deciding whether to make further recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission.

In a letter last month, Reyes was among 34 attorneys general urging the FCC to adopt rules that would require service providers to block illegally spoofed calls or help identify potential scams.