DETROIT – In touting her efforts to get tough on illegal robocalls, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently offered advice that contradicted what state health officials tracking coronavirus cases have asked Michiganders not to do:
"Don't answer the phone if you don't recognize the number."
The mixed messages are making it especially difficult to avoid robocalls during the pandemic, and, as the presidential — and other — campaigns heat up.
Last year, there were nearly 26 billion scam calls — 44% of all robocalls — nationwide and another 8 billion telemarketing calls, leading to a total of nearly 34 billion robocalls, according to YouMail, a cloud-based telecommunication service.
In the latest effort to stop robocallers, Nessel announced MODOK — a California-based enterprise that uses a technology that allows you to make voice calls through an internet connection instead of on a regular phone line — agreed to exit the telecom industry, Nessel said.
"Cracking down on such a public nuisance was a promise I made from the start of my tenure," Nessel said. "Today I am proud to announce that we have successfully put an end to one of the many illegal robocall operations that has targeted Michiganders and people around the country."
As it turns out, the name of the telecom company also happens to be the same name of a nasty Marvel Comics supervillain, an acronym for Mental/Mobile/Mechanizes Organism Designated Only for Killing.
Nessel said there were complaints against MODOK, which had allowed auto-warranty and Social Security scams.
The settlement marks the first time a state attorney general has been able to permanently shut down this kind of phone-service provider and bar its ownership from working in the industry, Nessel's office said.
She used the announcement to remind Michiganders of her Robocall Crackdown Initiative, which she said was a part of her efforts to target illegal robocalls and businesses that are "major conduits for scammers" all over the country.
"Let this serve as a notice to other robocallers or their service providers out there," Nessel said, adding that her office "will continue to protect Michigan consumers and pursue illegal robocalls to the furthest extent of the law."
However, state public health officials also have repeatedly said they need Michiganders to at least answer calls, in case they are pandemic-related. To fight this problem, they have been running information campaigns and trying to improve their systems, too.