COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Federal lawmakers have called it “a plague on our telephone system” — robocalls.

“Americans lose billions (of dollars) every year to these scammers, who use these robocalls,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

That’s just one of the reasons why Yost, the Illinois Attorney General, and federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission, are expanding their efforts to combat the persistent problem through Operation Stop Scam Calls.

“It’s a nationwide crackdown on the pressure points and the enablers for these robocalls that are interrupting our dinner and stealing our time and our attention,” Yost said. 

He said the sweep targets telemarketers, those who use phone calls to commit fraud, those who facilitate illegal telephone calls, and more importantly, Voice over Internet Providers who facilitate those calls — often from overseas — every year.

“The big players, you know, the AT&Ts, the Verizons of the world… they’re already clamping down on those people trying to access our networks,” Yost said. “What we’re going after is the smaller players that are turning a blind eye. Here’s the message — no more blind eye.”

Yost said the agencies have backed up that message with legal action. Just through the first half of this year, the State of Ohio brought three cases, and the FTC brought 167 cases against illegal robocallers and Do Not Call (DNC) violators, including many of those service providers.

While he’s proud of the progress, the attorney general asked for patience from consumers. He said it will still take some time to see a big change.

“It’s a big problem,” said Yost. “It didn’t develop overnight, but we’re making progress, and I am looking forward to a day that I don’t get calls. I mean, these people are stupid enough that they’re calling the Attorney General of Ohio. But the bottom line is, this is a consumer protection issue as much as it’s a quality of life issue, and it affects everybody. It’s my job to protect the unprotected here in Ohio, and we’re on the job.”

Yost said it’s the consumer who makes it possible for his office and federal agencies to bring legal action against these operations and stop them for good. Additionally, the money they’re ordered to pay back, often goes back to fraud victims.

Ohioans can report robocalls to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office here.