Robocalls have become the scrounge of modern communications. The Federal Communication Commission estimates that there were about 5.1 billion robocalls in the month of November 2018 alone. Robocall operators have become very sophisticated in their approach with the ability to hide numbers (so as to encourage people to pick up the calls) or even to mask them with local numbers. This means that the call could be an international call but the caller ID will show that it is a local number.
History of Robocalls
Robocalls are automated calls that are made to random people and give pre-recorded messages when the phone is picked. They started off as marketing platforms to sell a variety of goods to consumers but have now evolved to become platforms for scamming people. Many of these robocalls try to get as many personal details as possible from their targets including confidential information, such as bank pin numbers. The information is then used to steal money and data from the victims.
Earlier in June, the FCC declared that telecom carriers have the right to block robocalls from reaching their clients. The FCC gave carriers the permission to use what it termed as ‘reasonable analytics’ to screen and block calls it suspects are robocalls. The caveat in the decision is that the carriers have to inform their clients of the decision and the clients must be given the option to opt-in if they so choose to receive the robocalls. In doing this, the FCC also gave carriers the permission to use SHAKEN and STIR technologies to screen incoming calls and determine if the source numbers are legitimate or are spoofed to mask the real origin of the call.
Many carriers already have a variety of tools to protect their clients from robocalls. For example, T-Mobile has already implemented the Scam Block module on its network that blocks these kinds of calls. The customer, however, has to opt into the service and the FCC ruling states that screening now becomes the default.
Charges for Screening
In making the ruling, the FCC suggested that carriers should offer the screening service for free but noted that nothing stops the carriers from charging for the service. Telecom carriers will have to look at the cost of implementing the decision by the FCC and decide if they are willing to take on the cost of screening out robocalls or they want to pass them on to the consumers. In many cases, this will become a marketing point where carriers will seek to gain new customers or retain old ones by using their ability to screen out robocalls effectively.
Even though the FCC ruling is welcome, a typical telecom user already has an arsenal of tools to protect them from robocalls. There are numerous apps that build up databases of these scam calls and use that database to help users identify and block unwanted calls. There are also extensions that can be fixed on the telephone connections in the house to also prevent unwanted calls from reaching end-users’ phones.