What the Tech? Is There Finally a Way to Stop Robocalls?

If you don’t get a robocall every day, you probably don’t have a cellphone. Robocalls are the #1 complaint filed with the FCC but new technology just might put an end to them.

STIR/SHAKEN is a relatively new technology that enables cellphone carriers to verify a call is coming from the number that’s displayed on the screen. The idea is by eliminating calls from “spoofed” numbers, robocall companies could not send mass phone calls using numbers that appear to be coming from the receiver’s area code.

A majority of robocalls today are from “spoofed” numbers which lead many people to answer them, thinking someone nearby is calling. The STIR/SHAKEN technology is now being implemented by all of the major carriers and the deadline was July 1st to have it in place.

“I think it’s going to make a big difference,” said Jessica Rosenworcle, the acting Chairwoman of the FCC. From her office in Washington DC, Ms. Rosenworcel explained there is great hope that STIR/SHAKEN will make things tougher on robocall callers. “Call authentication that is done on the network through STIR/SHAKEN could be extremely helpful at figuring out where these calls are coming (from) and stopping them.”

The technology has been available for several years but carriers were hesitant to implement it for fear of lawsuits from legitimate robocalls such as those from school districts, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices. The FCC then gave carrier’s a “safe harbor” which protects them from lawsuits from companies or entities that do not have properly verified caller IDs.

Six days after carriers were required to use STIR/SHAKEN some robocalls from spoofed numbers were still getting through to customers. I received a car warranty robocall from a nearby number on July 6th so it isn’t working perfectly.

The FCC database of wireless carriers implementing the technology shows that of the big three providers, only T-Mobile/Sprint has fully implemented STIR/SHAKEN. AT&T and Verizon have only partially implemented it according to the database.

The FCC also recently sent cease-and-desist letters to 8 wireless carriers for allowing calls on their networks using spoofed numbers and to people on the Do Not Call List. Rosenworcel said the FCC is taking robocalls very seriously. “Basically telling those carriers and anyone else who wants to move volumes of this traffic across our networks that we’re coming for you and we’re going to shut you down if you keep this up,” she said.

The FCC strongly asks anyone receiving robocalls from a spoofed number to file a complaint by notifying the commission on its website, fcc.gov. Rosenworcel pointed to a record $225 million fine levied on a company responsible for robocalls and warns similar fines are likely for any company making illegal phone calls.

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