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Ajit Pai

Federal Communication Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai will kick off the consumer education forum in Fremont Wednesday morning. The forum, part of the FCC's Nebraska and Kansas Rural Tour, will focus on robocalls, spoofing and phone scams.

The Federal Communications Commission will hold a consumer education forum on phone fraud this Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at Keene Memorial Library.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will kick off the event, said Mike Snyder, director of media relations for the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. Pai was appointed to the commission in May 2012 by former President Barack Obama and was designated to chairman by President Donald Trump in January 2017.

The event is part of the FCC's Nebraska and Kansas Rural Tour, which will also visit West Point, Valley and Beatrice this week. It will feature panelists from the AARP's Fraud Watch, the Nebraska Attorney General's Office and Nebraska Public Service Commission.

"They'll hear some different perspectives and be able to ask questions of all these people as well, as well as us," Snyder said. "I think it's important that they will get a big picture, but we can also drill down while we're there, ,too into what they've got going on locally that we might be able to help with."

Snyder said the tour was started around this time last year after the FCC wanted to reach out to consumers in rural areas, which he said face different issues than consumers in larger metropolitan areas.

"The idea was that we would go on the road, get into a different location, pick a route in advance and talk to the local people in advance to set up some events, and just get out there and get face-to-face time and some reaction from some consumers about what's going on where they are," he said. "It helps to inform our decisions back in Washington."

The biggest issues tackled by the forum include robocalls, unwanted calls and scam calls, Snyder said. People in Nebraska received more than 17.5 million robocalls just last month, which the FCC said is their top consumer complaint.

As well as providing tips on how to combat these issues, the forum will discuss what efforts are being taken by the FCC.

"What we're trying to do is reach consumers so that they understand that while we're working on all this and we're doing what we can to mitigate the problem, there are things that they can do so that they don’t get scammed," Snyder said.

Spam callers often "spoof" numbers, which appear to be calling from the same area code as the target, Snyder said. These callers typically ask basic questions to get the information they're looking for.

"If you do pick up the call and it's clearly somebody you weren't expecting, just hang up," Snyder said. "Because the longer you engage, the more they can try to get some information out of you that they can later use in a different type of scam."

The forum will also cover other scamming methods, including slamming, which is changing the target's phone number with their authorization, and cramming, which is when a third-party biller gets a fee tacked onto a phone bill.

"You didn’t authorize that, but somehow it's on your bill," Snyder said. "And some people just pay them for months or years without realizing."

Snyder said the main goal of the forum is to let people know that they don't have to be the victim of a scam.

"We want to raise consumer issues," he said, "and then be there to hear from consumers and what their concerns are as well."

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