Robocalls and telemarketing calls have a bad reputation among consumer groups: they’re consistently the most common source of customer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Their roles in scams, such as spoofed calls claiming to originate from a well-known business or a government agency such as the IRS, contribute to their bad reputation. But soon, carriers may have another tool in the fight against fraudulent calls: rules that allow carriers to block calls which conceal their origin using spoofed numbers, including numbers which can’t possibly be valid.
U.S. phone users receive 2.4 billion robocalls every month on aggregate, reports FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Many of those calls come from spoofed numbers, meaning a caller disguises their phone number by camouflaging it with a different one. For fraudsters, this can serve three purposes: Trick consumers into picking up unwanted calls, disguise the true origin of the call, and conceal the caller from authorities.
Often, the people targeted by fraudulent calls are older citizens and other vulnerable populations. Spoofers will frequently call under the guise of collecting a debt or levying a fine, with the threat that if the recipient doesn’t pay, they’ll face legal repercussions.
Current regulations from the FCC generally prevent call-blocking, which limits the amount that carriers can do to prevent fraud from occurring. But in new rules discussed in late March, carriers may gain the authority to target robocalls which use number spoofing and block them before they ever reach consumers. The FCC may not simply be relaxing the rules, either: they might also provide specific resources to help combat robocall spoofing.
For example, Pai notes, there is a database that tracks all available phone numbers in the U.S. phone system, and many of those numbers are not currently in use. Any call purporting to originate from an unused number is immediately suspect.
Combating robocall spoofing is a rare topic on which consumer groups, government groups, and corporations are all in agreement. Not only does doing so help prevent fraud, it also increases consumer confidence in business conducted over the phone. And, as Pai notes, there is no reason any legitimate caller would need to spoof a phone number. Allowing carriers to block these calls only makes sense.
While preventing fraudulent robocalls may be the issue of most interest to the general public, the FCC is also considering a number of other issues, ranging from contraband cell phones in prisons to improving Video Relay Services and other assistive technologies for Americans with disabilities. In all, the FCC and its task forces are actively looking to improve the phone infrastructure for businesses and consumers alike.
To learn more about the latest developments in robocalling and telephony – including STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs) which is set to deliver a potentially powerful one-two punch to defeat robocalling – contact us.