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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calls for an end to 'illegal robocalls'

He wants a system to detect illegally spoofed calls.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Testifies Before House Appropriations Committee

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Alex Edelman / Getty Images

Ajit Pai has called on top executives in the tech industry to put an end to scam phone calls.

The Federal Communication Commission chairman on Monday sent letters to the heads of AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Google and others, asking them to adopt a call authentication system that would combat illegal caller ID spoofing. He asked the companies to have the system in place no later than next year.

In a statement, Pai called "combatting illegal robocalls" the top consumer priority for the FCC. He called on the companies to adopt call authentication technology.

"It's the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence," Pai said, referring to the authentication technology, which would digitally sign and validate calls. "If it does not appear that this system is on track to get up and running next year, then we will take action to make sure that it does."

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Pai's request comes as the FCC tries to get its arms around the problem of robocallers, who illegally spoof caller IDs so that they display someone else's number when telemarketers make calls. Scammers use the method to make it more difficult for annoyed consumers to make complaints, as well as hinder police efforts to track the calls. 

In September, the FCC fined robocaller Philip Roesel and his companies more than $82 million for illegal caller ID spoofing. Roesel used those companies to market health insurance and generate leads for insurance products he sold.

In May, the agency levied a $120 million fine against Adrian Abramovich, who allegedly made nearly 100 million robocalls to sell "exclusive" vacation deals.

How to stop robocalls: Here's everything you can do to end the misery.

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