Can We Stop The Scourge Of Robocalls?

September 30, 2019

Given the recent media attention on combating robocalls, we need a reality check: We can’t completely eradicate these “nuisance” calls. But we do have the technology and regulatory framework here in the United States to block the most egregious robocalls that put consumers at risk.

While there’s not a panacea for robocalls, we can take huge strides in shutting down illegal robocalls run by fraudsters who use autodialed, pre-recorded messages to prey on unsuspecting victims to steal money or personal data, or both. Some quick clarity on terminology: If you answer the phone and hear a recording rather than a live person, then it’s a robocall. And if the call is trying to sell you something, then it’s illegal — unless you’ve given written permission to allow it. More information on robocalls from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can be found here.

September 14, 2019

A new report highlights how nimble scammers and spammers are in the face efforts to combat robocalls.

Despite new initiatives by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and carriers, robocalls aren’t on the wane. Americans are still facing a scourge of 200 million unwanted robocalls a day, according to a report from Transaction Network Services (TNS), a major telecommunications network and services company…

July 12, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission is lauding the progress that phone carriers are making in the fight against unwanted robocalls, but also warning that if they fail to meet a deadline, the agency will move to impose new regulations.

This week the FCC held a summit on combating robocalls, a broadly acknowledged problem that has eroded trust in the phone system and put consumers — particularly the elderly — at risk of falling prey to scammers.

The FCC has alighted on a technical approach to fight the spoofed calls that often show up on your caller ID with your own area code and, often, the same first three numbers as your own phone number. Those calls, by spoofing your own number, aim to trick you into answering what appears to be a legitimate, local call, but in more likelihood originates from an overseas auto-dialing operation. The result, officials have lamented, is that we have become a “nation of call screeners.”

The Federal Communications Commission is pushing the telecom industry to step up attacks on robocallers, which could provide another tool for consumers.

The FCC knows better than anyone how bad the robocall crisis is (FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called it a “scourge”) simply because of the flood of complaints the agency gets.

Unwanted calls are far and away the biggest consumer complaint to the FCC with over 200,000 complaints each year—around 60 percent of all the complaints we receive.

–“The FCC’s Push to Combat Robocalls & Spoofing,” FCC


[UPDATE] Verizon is getting ready to offer a free robocall blocking app at the end of this month, as it steps up efforts to combat the growing plague of spam calls.

Update (Thursday March 28, 2019): here’s the new free app.

In 2019, pretty much everyone is on a robocaller’s speed-dial list. That often means several spam calls per day.

Verizon knows this of course. It already offers a paid blocking app for $2.99 a month. But the new freemium (free + premium) strategy means that in addition to the paid app, there will now be a free* version…


October 29, 2018

Just weeks after the Social Security Administration (SSA) warned about an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) impersonation scheme, the Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is raising an alert about a new scam. This time, the scheme involves thieves who are engaging in caller-ID “spoofing” which echoes a pattern where thieves pretend to be from government agencies, like those scammers who are spoofing calls from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)…

July 22, 2018

Why can’t the government catch these guys? That was the sentiment echoed in my inbox over and over as those Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impersonation phone scams exploded. It felt painfully slow, but arrests were finally made in the United States and India. This week, many of those scammers were sentenced for their crimes.

Twenty-one members of a massive India-based fraud and money laundering conspiracy faced sentencing hearings this week in Houston, Texas. The defendants had ties to India-based call centers that targeted U.S. residents and cheated thousands out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

July 20, 2018

It may be summer, but the bad guys aren’t taking a vacation. The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, has issued a warning about an ongoing phone scam from thieves pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

As part of the con, scammers try to convince you to give up personal information, like Social Security numbers and bank account numbers, over the phone. In another case, a caller claims to be from “SSA headquarters” and asks you to confirm personal information, such as an SSN, “new” Medicare number, address, and date of birth…

June 12, 2018

4.1 billion. That’s the number of robocalls made to American consumers last month, according to the robocall index operated by YouMail, a robocall blocking service.

Managing illegal robocalls has been the FCC’s responsibility since the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was signed in 1991, but a recent court decision means the FCC must reconsider how it defines—and handles—the most annoying phone calls.

In March, the U.S. federal appeals court in D.C. found that the Commission’s definition of autodialer could potentially apply to smartphones, and had to be reworked…

June 11, 2018

Caller ID is an automatic feature offered by every telecommunications carrier to identify a calling party to the recipient. While there are options to block outgoing identification in order not to transmit your phone number if privacy is desired the system also fosters the ability to deceive. Some telephone companies will send only the phone number, and others will also send the subscriber name. Outbound caller ID options are associated with non-toll numbers only. If you blocked your number from appearing on the telephone you are calling, the rules do not apply to toll-free access so if you call an 800 number, for example, regardless whether you block your identity, it will still be displayed because the recipient is actually paying for the call…