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Mauer Law

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Please contact us if you have received a collection letter from Mauer Law within the last year

Worth Reading — Editorial on Student Loan Collections from U.Va. student paper

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

OPINION

​Debt collection agencies hurt students

The U.S. Department of Education was right to cut ties with five agencies Friday

The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday it would end contracts with five private collection agencies. While the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office handles student loans, it contracts out to debt collection agencies to collect payment on those loans. These agencies must adhere to federal debt collection laws — in particular the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Unfortunately, as the Education Department has found, five such agencies were likely providing inaccurate information to borrowers. Doing so stands to agencies’ benefit: if these agencies mislead borrowers about their options to get out of default, they stand to reap even more collection fees. Why they need them is debatable: according to Dwight Vigna, an Education Department official, debt collectors expect to make nearly $5.8 billion in commissions over the four-year period ending in 2016.

It is important to reflect on just who the borrowers are in these situations. The Federal Student Aid office gives loans to students attending college. The amount of student debt in our country is well beyond where it should be — according to The Institute for College Access and Success, in 2013 nearly seven out of 10 graduating seniors left school with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt. According to The Huffington Post, cumulative federal student debt is now over $1.1 trillion, and the number of borrowers now in default is over 7 million.

With the growing student debt problem and the difficulties indebted students face upon graduating college, the possibility of students being misled about their payment options is nothing short of outrageous. The toll this kind of debt can take on an individual is immeasurable: according to a Gallup report, college graduates with high levels of student loan debt are less likely to thrive physically, have a good sense of purpose and be involved in their communities. In other words, debt is, quite literally, debilitating.

If collection agencies knowingly concealed payment options that could lighten students’ burden of debt, the Department of Education is right in its decision to cut ties with those agencies. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Justice should immediately begin investigating whether those agencies violated existing federal debt collection laws — a strong possibility.

It is important for the Department of Education to look out for the populace it aims to serve — namely, students. In the future, the Education Department should scrutinize its contracted debt collectors, and, if possible, find ways to compensate borrowers who were misled by these particular agencies. Perhaps the Education Department should also reevaluate the agencies with which it contracts more regularly: one of the agencies it cut ties with has worked for it since 1997, and the number of days, months or years during which the agency has misled its borrowers remains unclear.

The above solutions, however, are band-aid solutions at best. The ideal scenario would be for the Education Department to cut out the middlemen altogether and funnel federal loans directly through the Treasury Department or a federal program of some kind, where collectors will have no incentive to mislead borrowers. No matter what, if a collection agency misleads borrowers, the Education Department’s response is reactive — making it difficult to compensate borrowers for whatever money they may have lost in the process. Were the process to be streamlined without outside agencies, students would have a better chance of graduating with less debt.

 

Identity Theft Tops FTC’s Consumer Complaint Categories Again in 2014

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Identity Theft Tops FTC’s Consumer Complaint Categories Again in 2014

Agency Also Notes a Large Increase in Complaints About “Imposter” Scams

FOR RELEASE

Identity theft topped the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints for the 15thconsecutive year, while the agency also recorded a large increase in the number of complaints about so-called “imposter” scams, according to the FTC’s 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, which was released today.

Imposter scams – in which con artists impersonate government officials or others – moved into third place on the list of consumer complaints, entering the top three complaint categories for the first time. The increase in imposter scams was led by a sharp jump in complaints about IRS and other government imposter scams. Debt collection held steady as the second-most-reported complaint.

“While identity theft remains a huge issue, consumers should also keep a close eye out for imposter scams,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Whether it’s pretending to be the IRS during tax season, or making false promises of a lottery win, scammers are increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to deceive consumers, but the FTC will continue working to shut these scammers down.”

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is produced annually using complaints received by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network. That includes not only complaints made directly by consumers to the FTC, but also complaints received by state and federal law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The report includes not only national data but also a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories and a listing of the metropolitan areas that generated the most complaints. In 2014, 2,582,851 complaints were entered into the Consumer Sentinel Network. Florida was the top source of complaints per capita both for identity theft, and fraud and other complaints. For fraud and other complaints, Georgia and Nevada had the second and third highest per capita complaint rates, while Washington and Oregon were in the second and third position for identity theft complaints.

The complaint categories making up the top 10 are:

Number Percent
Identity Theft 332,646 13 percent
Debt Collection 280,998 11 percent
Imposter Scams 276,662 11 percent
Telephone and Mobile Services 171,809 7 percent
Banks and Lenders 128,107 5 percent
Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries 103,579 4 percent
Auto-Related Complaints 88,334 3 percent
Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales 71,377 3 percent
Television and Electronic Media 48,640 2 percent
Internet Services 46,039 2 percent

Education Department Terminates Contracts With Debt Collectors Accused Of Wrongdoing

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

from Huffington Post

 

The U.S. Department of Education, under fire for its lackluster oversight of student loan contractors, said Friday it will terminate its relationship with five debt collectors after accusing them of misleading distressed borrowers at “unacceptably high rates.”

The surprise announcement follows years of complaints about allegedly illegal debt-collection practices by Education Department contractors, the department’s seeming lack of interest in ensuring that borrowers are treated fairly, and the relative opacity of the entire operation.

The most prominent of the debt collectors, Pioneer Credit Recovery, is owned by Navient Corp., the student loan giant formerly known as Sallie Mae. Pioneer, under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, generated $127 million from the contract over the past two years, according to its annual report to investorson Friday. It has worked for the Education Department since 1997.

With the number of borrowers in default now more than 7 million as federal student debt surpasses $1.1 trillion, the contracts have become among the most lucrative Education Department offerings, generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year for debt collectors tasked with recouping cash from borrowers who have defaulted on their federal student loans. In November 2013, Dwight Vigna, the Education Department official who oversees the program, told the financial industry that debt collectors stood to reap nearly $5.8 billion in commissions over the four-year period ending in 2016.

But the department’s debt collection program has also become a headache for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as plaintiffs’ lawyers, state and federal regulators and borrower advocates have demanded changes after discovering evidence that borrowers in distress were given false information or otherwise mistreated when they tried to make good on their debts.

The Education Department said Friday that its decision was prompted by what it described as “high incidences of materially inaccurate representations” to borrowers that it discovered in reviews spanning several months. The five debt collectors, according to the department, misled borrowers about their options to get out of default, the resulting benefits to their credit reports and collection fees. Misleading borrowers about their defaulted debts may violate federal fair debt collection laws.

“Every company that works for the department must keep consumers’ best interests at the heart of their business practices by giving borrowers clear and accurate guidance,” said Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell. “It is our responsibility — and our commitment — to uphold the highest standards of service for America’s student borrowers and consumers.”

The admission that some of its contractors likely violated borrowers’ rights under fair debt collection laws will likely lead to increased scrutiny of the department’s debt collectors, oversight of them, and how borrowers may have been harmed.

The Education Department didn’t respond to queries beyond an emailed news release.

The Treasury Department is among federal agencies that have been concerned by the Education Department’s debt collection program. The Huffington Post reported in November that the Treasury would soon take some student borrowers’ accounts away from the Education Department’s contracted debt collectors and give them to federal workers in a pilot program that may cut out student loan middlemen.

The other companies to lose their contracts are: Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, and West Asset Management. The Federal Trade Commission in 2011 accused West Asset of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The two sides settled for $2.8 million, which at the time was the FTC’s largest civil penalty in a debt collection case.

“Student loan debt collectors that mislead and harm consumers must be held accountable,” said Rohit Chopra, the consumer bureau’s top official overseeing student loans. “Today, the Education Department took an important step by winding down contracts with five debt collectors for not playing by the rules. The CFPB will continue to work with our federal and state partners to root out bad actors and ensure that debt collectors are treating student borrowers fairly. Consumers need clarity, not confusion.”

The Education Department said it would transfer accounts from affected companies, including Pioneer, to its other debt collectors, and would officially terminate its relationship with the companies once all accounts have been moved over. The move is the department’s most forceful response in years to alleged misdeeds by its student loan contractors.

The National Consumer Law Center, which advocates on behalf of borrowers, has previously criticized the department’s debt collectors for routinely violating borrowers’ consumer rights under federal and state laws. Deanne Loonin has been among the borrower advocates most critical of the department’s relationship with allegedly-sloppy debt collectors, and has urged the department for years to terminate its contracts as a result.

Federal watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office and the Education Department’s inspector general have repeatedly criticized the department’s oversight of contractors. In a report last year, the GAO found that the Education Department documented apparent violations of federal debt collection laws by its contractors, yet did nothing about it. The Education Department’s inspector general has faulted the department for ignoring both borrowers’ complaints and its own debt collectors’ potential violations of federal consumer laws.

In its annual report to investors on Friday, Navient indicated it disagreed with the Education Department’s decision. “We are engaged with [the department] to learn more about their decision and address any questions or concerns they may have,” the company said.

The Education Department’s decision is likely to come as a shock to the debt collection industry and the financiers who bankroll the companies. Pioneer, Enterprise and Coast have been among the Education Department’s highest-ranking debt collectors, according to the department.

“After years of hearing complaints from borrowers of abusive treatment, we are relieved to hear that the Education Department has taken this first step to protect borrowers and hold the companies they contract accountable,” said Chris Hicks, an organizer who leads the Debt-Free Future campaign for Jobs With Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit.

 

This is the Department of Education press release

 

U.S. Department of Education to End Contracts with Several Private Collection Agencies

After finding high incidences of materially inaccurate representations, Department acts to protect consumers
FEBRUARY 27, 2015

Following a review of 22 private collection agencies, the U.S. Department of Education announced today that it will wind down contracts with five private collection agencies that were providing inaccurate information to borrowers. The five companies are: Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, Pioneer Credit Recovery, and West Asset Management.

The Department also announced that it will provide enhanced Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices monitoring and guidance for all private collection agencies that work with the Department to ensure that companies are consistently providing borrowers with accurate information regarding their loans.

“Federal Student Aid borrowers are entitled to accurate information as they make critical choices to manage their debt,” said Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “Every company that works for the Department must keep consumers’ best interests at the heart of their business practices by giving borrowers clear and accurate guidance. It is our responsibility – and our commitment – to uphold the highest standards of service for America’s student borrowers and consumers.”

During the past several months, the Department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office performed a review of all private collection agencies that FSA works with. In these reviews, the Department sought to ensure that its private collection agencies were complying with the terms of the contract, which includes assurances that the agencies would not engage in unfair or deceptive practices and would comply with all applicable Federal and State laws.

In its review, the Department found that agents of the companies made materially inaccurate representations to borrowers about the loan rehabilitation program, which is an option that can create benefits to defaulted borrowers after they have made nine on-time payments in a period of 10 months. The five private collection agencies listed above were found to have given inaccurate information at unacceptably high rates about these benefits. In particular, these agencies gave borrowers misleading information about the benefits to the borrowers’ credit report and about the waiver of certain collection fees.

The Department will reassign accounts held by these five agencies which are not already in repayment to other agencies. The Department will also increase monitoring to ensure that the students who began rehabilitation under the five private collection agencies will be treated fairly as they complete the rehabilitation process. Lastly, the Department will issue enhanced guidance to all remaining private collection agencies, increase internal training for FSA staff, enhance the private collection agency manual, expand monitoring for these types of issues, and refine its internal escalation practices.


FSA administers and oversees the federal student financial assistance programs, authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). These programs represent the largest source of student aid for postsecondary education in the United States. The Office of the Under Secretary manages policies, programs, and activities related to postsecondary education.

FTC, New York Attorney General Crack Down on Abusive Debt Collectors

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

FTC, New York Attorney General Crack Down on Abusive Debt Collectors

Charges Cite Harassing Conduct, False and Deceptive Claims Made to Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission, jointly with the New York State Office of the Attorney General, has filed complaints aimed at shutting down two particularly egregious and abusive debt collection operations centered in Buffalo, New York that target consumers nationwide. According to the complaints, the separate enterprises used threats and abusive language, including false threats that consumers would be arrested, to collect more than $45 million in supposed debts.

“The Federal Trade Commission is pleased to work with the New York State Attorney General to stop abusive debt collectors,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The cases announced today will help protect consumers from debt collectors that disregard the law in an attempt to make a buck.”

“Today’s action should make it clear that nobody is above the law, and when shady debt collectors engage in illegal and abusive business practices, they will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The use of threats, including the threat of arrest, to collect debts is unconscionable, and I am pleased to partner with the FTC to stand up for consumers against these bad actors.”

The federal court has temporarily halted defendants’ practices in both cases at the FTC’s and New York Attorney General’s request.

4 Star Resolution LLC

On February 9, 2015, the FTC and New York Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against 4 Star Resolution LLC, six other corporate entities, and three individuals (collectively, 4 Star), alleging that 4 Star used abusive and deceptive tactics to pressure consumers into making payments on supposed debts.

According to the complaint, 4 Star regularly called consumers using fictitious addresses, bogus company names, and spoofed phone numbers. After misrepresenting their names and locations, 4 Star’s collectors falsely identified themselves to consumers, claiming that they were attorneys, process servers, government agents, or criminal law enforcement officials.

In addition, 4 Star’s collectors allegedly falsely claimed that the consumers had committed an illegal or criminal act such as bank or check fraud. 4 Star’s collectors then falsely threatened consumers with dire consequences, including arrest, imprisonment, and civil lawsuits, unless the consumers made an immediate payment on the supposed debts.

The complaint cites several examples that illustrate the defendants’ alleged abusive and deceptive conduct. During one call to collect on a supposed debt, a 4 Star collector used the pseudonym “Detective Jeff Ramsay,” and left a message where he falsely asserted that he was seeking to serve a bench warrant on the consumer for check fraud.

In another instance, 4 Star’s collectors falsely told a consumer that her husband had committed check and money fraud and that legal action would be taken against the husband if the debt was not paid in two days. One of 4 Star’s collectors falsely identified himself to the consumer as “Investigator Kearns” and claimed that he worked for a government agency located in Washington, DC.

The complaint also alleges that when consumers asked for proof of the supposed debt, 4 Star’s representatives refused to provide it, and instead often told consumers they would only receive proof in court or after the debt was paid. The defendants often allegedly failed to provide written notice of the debt as required by law and failed to make required disclosures to consumers.

Finally, the complaint alleges that 4 Star unlawfully disclosed information about supposed debtors to third parties, including friends, family members, and employers, and illegally used abusive and profane language, including routinely calling consumers such names as “idiot,” “dummy,” “piece of scum,” “thief,” or “loser.”

Vantage Point Services, LLC

According to the second complaint, filed against Vantage Point Services, LLC, and related corporate and individual defendants, the organization, used deceptive, unfair, and abusive tactics to pressure consumers into making payments on supposed debts.

The complaint alleges that in collection calls to consumers the defendants often falsely claimed to be a law firm, process server, unrelated debt collection company, or entity affiliated with the government. In some instances, the defendants even posed as government agents, including FBI agents and district attorneys. In others instances, the defendants falsely told consumers they were working as an intermediary with the state, or that the state had placed the consumers’ account with them to give them a chance to pay the debt before criminal charges were filed.

With this deceptive backdrop, the defendants falsely claimed that consumers had committed a crime and that an arrest warrant would be issued unless they made a payment. Often, the defendants told consumers that they would spend 90 or 120 days in jail, or that that would need to pay thousands of dollars in bail if they didn’t pay.

The defendants’ conduct was not limited to people that supposedly owed the debt, however. Vantage Point made similar representations to third parties, including supposed debtors’ friends, family members, and co-workers. In some cases, the defendants falsely told third parties that the supposed debtors had committed a crime and that a warrant had been issued for their arrest.

Finally, the complaint states that the defendants failed to provide consumers with basic information about their identity during calls, did not provided consumers with information about the supposed debt within five days of the call, as required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and illegally charged them a “processing fee.”

Both complaints charge the respective defendants with violating the FTC Act and the FDCPA, as well as several New York State laws prohibiting deceptive acts and practices. In filing the complaints, the FTC and the New York Attorney General’s Office are seeking to permanently stop the defendants’ illegal conduct and to obtain money to provide refunds to consumers.

The 4 Star defendants are: 1) 4 Star Resolution LLC; 2) Profile Management, Inc.; 3) International Recovery Service LLC; 4) Check Solutions Services Inc.; 5) Check Fraud Service LLC; 6) Merchant Recovery Service, Inc.; 7) Fourstar Revenue Management LLC; 8) Travell Thomas, individually and as a principal, manager, and/or officer of several of the corporate defendants; 9) Maurice Sessum, individually and as a principal, manager, and/or officer of several of the corporate defendants; and 10) Charles Blakely III, individually and as principal, manager, and/or officer of Merchant Recovery Service, Inc. The complaint also alleges that the corporate defendants conducted business through approximately two dozen fictitious names.

The Vantage defendants are: 1) Vantage Point Services, LLC; 2) Payment Management Solutions, Inc.; and 3) Gregory MacKinnon; 4) Megan Vandeviver; and 5) Angela Burdorf, each individually and as an officer of one or more of the corporate defendants.

The Commission vote authorizing the filing of each complaint was 5-0. The complaints against 4 Star and Vantage Point Services were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

 

 

 

Title Loan Company

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Please contact us if Title Loan Company  has sued you or you have received a dunning letter on one of its loans.

Opportunity Financial

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Please contact us if Opportunity Financial has sued you or you have received a dunning letter on one of its loans.

Archerfield Funding

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Please contact us if Archerfield Funding has sued you or you have received a dunning letter on one of its loans.

FTC Goes After Debt Relief Companies Who Deal With Payday Loans

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Complaint is Agency’s First against Defendants Promising Payday Loan Debt Relief

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint in federal district court, aiming to stop an operation that has targeted consumers with outstanding payday loans, saying they could help resolve those debts but then providing little or none of the financial relief they promised. As a result, many consumers stopped making payments to the original lenders and found themselves in even deeper financial trouble, having paid hundreds of dollars in fees for no benefit.

“The defendants promised to help people struggling to make payments on their payday loans,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Instead, they took the money and ran, leaving their customers deeper in debt.”

According to the FTC’s complaint against Payday Support Center, LLC, now known as PSC Administrative, LLC, and related parties, starting in August 2012 the defendants have used the Internet, radio, and telemarketing to target consumers who owe multiple debts on payday loans, which are typically short-term loans with high interest rates.

The FTC alleges that the defendants induce consumers into enrolling in their “financial hardship program” by claiming that they will negotiate with the lenders to reduce consumers’ payments and eliminate their debt. They advise consumers to stop making direct payments to their lenders and to pay money to the defendants instead, promising that within four to six months, the loans will be paid off.

Their radio and the Internet advertisements include statements such as:

  • “Are payday loans ruining your life? Do you have more payday loans than you’re able to pay back right now? If you have two or more payday cash advance loans, listen closely…”
  • “All you need is two or more payday loan cash advances to qualify. Even if you’re behind, in collections or have bad credit. We’ll even help you with your internet payday loans…”

The FTC alleges that, in telemarketing calls targeting these financially distressed consumers, the defendants say that they have gone through a “qualifications check,” and that consumers are confirmed to participate in their special “financial hardship program.” They then promise to “get rid of,” “pay off,” or “take care of” all of the consumers’ payday loan debts.

They allegedly also tell consumers that they will negotiate “interest free” payment on the loans through the program, falsely implying that the debts would be paid off, free of all interest and fees. As part of the program, the defendants require consumers to make bi-weekly payments to them, typically between $98 and $160.

In reality, the FTC alleges, the defendants provide little or no debt relief services for their clients, and their limited actions do not generally eliminate or even reduce most clients’ payday loans. While the defendants send “validation” form letters to some lenders, the lenders typically have ignored these letters and continued their collection efforts.  Based on this conduct, the FTC has charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act, which prohibits deceptive acts and practices, and the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, which prohibits abusive and deceptive telemarketing practices.

The complaint names as defendants: 1) PSC Administrative, LLC, formerly known as Payday Support Center, LLC; 2) Coastal Acquisitions, LLC, doing business as Infinity Client Solutions; 3) Jared Irby, individually and as an officer of PSC Administrative, LLC; and 4) Richard Hughes, individually and as an officer of PSC Administrative, LLC.

In filing the complaint, the FTC is seeking to permanently stop the defendants’ allegedly illegal conduct, as well as a monetary judgment for refunds to return to consumers defrauded by the operation.

 

Federal ‘Do Not Call’ registry hasn’t slowed telemarketers

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Federal ‘Do Not Call’ registry hasn’t slowed telemarketers

By Jerry RevishWBNS-10TV  •  Sunday February 1, 2015 8:55 AM
Federal regulators declared war on unwanted telephone solicitations more than a decade ago, but victory, it seems, is nowhere in sight — much less in earshot.

In central Ohio and across the United States, rings, buzzes and chirps continue to spoil dinners, wake napping infants and interrupt favorite TV shows.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports that telemarketing-related consumer complaints have jumped every year since 2003, when the federal government established the National Do Not Call Registry, which was supposed to put an end to the problem.

During the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, the FTC fielded 3.2 million such complaints. That’s almost six times the number of telemarketing complaints the agency logged a decade earlier — even though the number of phone numbers on the registry had increased fourfold.

Nowadays, more often than not, the targets of nuisance calls can’t even voice their displeasure to a person on the other end of the line because many live-operator solicitations have given way to less costly — but no less annoying — automated or recorded “robocalls.”

That federal law prohibits companies placing automated sales calls to anyone who hasn’t provided express written consent has done little to curb their use.

“The problem has undoubtedly gotten worse over the last five years, and the reason is technology,” Bikram Bandy, program manager for the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, told CBS MoneyWatch. “Voice over Internet (Protocol), or VoIP, has made it cheaper for a smaller organization to make many, many calls.

“(VoIP) is good for consumers because they pay a lot less for calls than they did years ago, but the bad guys are leveraging the same technology.”

With their overhead costs dramatically reduced, many unscrupulous telemarketers have determined that breaking the law is worth the risk.

Some crooked outfits hide behind caller-ID “spoofing” technology, which allows them to mask where solicitations originate. Others operate offshore, making it tougher for U.S. authorities to track them down — never mind bring them to justice.

For years, the FTC’s most-potent weapon against nuisance calls has been litigation — and the threat of multimillion-dollar civil penalties and settlements.

To date, the FTC has filed 105 lawsuits against companies accused of ignoring the Do Not Call Registry or otherwise making illegal calls. The 80 cases resolved thus far have yielded more than $41 million in civil penalties and $33 million in refunds. Just last month, a settlement enabled the agency to send refunds to 16,590 consumers who’d paid upfront fees to telemarketing firms that allegedly promised to reduce the interest rates on their credit cards.

The FTC, however, is open to other tactics. Two years ago, for example, it announced the “Robocall Challenge,” a contest intended to spur the development of high-tech tools to block illegal calls. One of the top prizes, $25,000, went to software engineer Aaron Foss, whose free, cloud-based solution, Nomorobo, is now available to the public at www.nomorobo.com.

Nomorobo (as in “no more robo”) essentially routes incoming calls to a second telephone line, which, in turn, identifies — and hangs up on — illegal robocalls before they can ring through to the user’s line. The technology doesn’t block legitimate automated calls, such as weather advisories, school-closing notifications and prescription pick-up reminders.

Almost 200,000 people have signed up for Nomorobo, and Foss says the service has spared those individuals more than 15.5 million nuisance calls so far.

At this point, Nomorobo is available only to the users of landlines that utilize VoIP, but Foss and fans of the call-blocking tool are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules that could expand the protection to traditional analog-telephone customers.

The effort got a big boost last fall when the National Association of Attorneys General, acting on behalf of 39 state and territorial officeholders, including Ohio’s Mike DeWine, formally urged the FCC to take up the issue.

“State law-enforcement officials are doing everything possible to track down and prosecute those that engage in illegal telemarketing,” the association told the FCC. “However, law enforcement cannot fight this battle alone.

“Call-blocking technology … appears to be the first major advancement towards a solution.”

jerry.revish@10tv.com