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FCC educates people about robocalls; first-of-its-kind event launches in Hawaii with KITV4

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HONOLULU - The state estimates every Hawaii resident with a telephone gets about 8 scam robocalls a day. While some people simply ignore the calls, others become victims, and are losing possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to fraudsters. The Federal Communications Commission is so concerned about this, it held a webinar Thursday to educate the public, and tapped KITV4's Diane Ako as a co-host.

The state says last month alone, scammers made over ten million calls to Hawaii residents. Stephen Levins, Executive Director of the Hawai'i State Office of Consumer Protection, calculates, "That averages out to almost 340,000 a day. About eight-and-a-half per person. It's a huge problem in Hawaii and the rest of the country."

In fact, it even affected the state itself. Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors recalls last month, "Our Hawaii Criminal Justice Data center was the victim of a spoofing scam."

This is why the Federal Communications Commission held a webinar Thursday. Lyle S. Ishida is the Chief of the Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, at the Federal Communications Commission. "Robocalls and spoofing are the FCC's number complaint topic from across the country."

It's the first time the federal agency is targeting smaller audiences, with an interactive program letting the audience write in questions. It started with Hawaii.

Ishida expands, "We are trying out a new outreach event strategy whereby we, at the FCC, would work with officials from states or municipalities to bring local familiar faces to people in specific areas." KITV4 had a role in this event with me as co-host.

The webinar taught people how to protect themselves from scam calls. Keyla Hernandez-Ulloa, Associate Chief at the FCC Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, advises, "If you see a number you don't recognize, don't pick up. If it's really not a scam and they leave a voice mail you can try to call back, but a note on voicemails: sometimes scammers are really sophisticated." Be suspicious, she sums.

It also highlighted the work state agencies do to protect their clients.

Joseph Campos, Deputy Director of the Hawaii Department of Human Services, shares, "The Adult Protective Services staff work with their clients to address the trauma and shame that they have from being spoofed or taken advantage of."

This is the first event of its kind, but the FCC says it won't be the last, because unfortunately, the problem of robocalls won't be going away any time soon.

More information on unwanted calls here:

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