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FCC orders phone companies to block student loan scam robocalls

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday that all U.S. phone companies have been ordered to block traffic from Urth Access. Pool File Photo by Alex Wong/UPI
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday that all U.S. phone companies have been ordered to block traffic from Urth Access. Pool File Photo by Alex Wong/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has ordered phone companies to stop carrying robocalls related to known student loan scams.

The telecommunications regulator made the announcement Thursday, ordering U.S. companies to block robocall traffic from Urth Access on accusations that the company is behind upwards of 40% of student loan debt robocalls in October.

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"Scam robocalls try to pull from the headlines to confuse consumers," FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. "The newest trick in thier playbook? Trying to take advantage of people who want help paying off their student loans.

"Today, we're cutting these scammers off so they can't use efforts to provide student loan debt relief as cover for fraud."

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The release Thursday states all U.S. voice service providers must now take "all necessary steps" to avoid carrying this robocall traffic, which it added was a target of an ongoing investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.

The announcement comes a month after the FCC sent Urth Access a cease-and-desist letter, explaining if they do not stop making illegal robocalls on behalf of its clients they will authorize for all Urth Access' traffic to be blocked.

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The moves follow a Traceback Consortium probe in October of prerecorded voice message calls the customers of YouMail, a robocall blocking software company, had flagged as illegal robocalls.

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The prerecorded messages advertised student loan assistance, including loan forgiveness, with an apparent spike in scam calls noticed following the August announcement of President Joe Biden's student debt plan to forgive up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for federal borrowers who earn less than $125,000 annually.

Biden's student debt plan has been shelved following litigation, with the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments about the program next year.

The FCC had also issued a consumer alert early last month warning students to be wary of student loan debt scam robocalls.

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"We will continue to deploy all of the tools in our arsenal to eliminate bad actors' access to U.S. communications networks in furtherance of their schemes," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal said.

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