Phone Companies Adopt New Plan to Combat Robocallers

A dozen major phone companies — including mobile and broadband service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — are teaming with 51 attorneys general from across the U.S. to introduce call-blocking tech and additional measures designed to help regulators take on scammers by preventing robocalls. According to Irvine, CA-based call-blocking service YouMail, robocalls reached 4.7 billion consumers in July alone. “Robocalls are a scourge — at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” said North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein.

“By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call,” added Stein, who is leading the coalition with attorneys general from Indiana and New Hampshire.

The other participating service providers include Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Consolidated Communications, Frontier Communications, U.S. Cellular and Windstream Services.

“The new agreement,” reports The New York Times, “builds on work many are already doing to roll out technical standards that would help ensure that callers are using legitimate phone numbers.” Phone scammers will commonly “display bogus numbers — sometimes spoofing local or official numbers, like the Social Security Administration — to tempt targets into picking up the call.” 

While the agreement does not stipulate a deadline for integrating call-verifying tech, “it does cover the full range of service providers, from cable landlines to mobile communications to Voice over Internet Protocol companies,” explains NYT.

“T-Mobile was the first to install the new standard — known by the acronym STIR/SHAKEN, a reference to James Bond and martini preparation — in January, although it is compatible only with certain devices. Verizon has also started rolling out call authentication, while T-Mobile and AT&T are working together to validate calls across their networks. AT&T has also begun validating calls with Comcast.”

To assist attorneys general in their investigations of criminal activity, phone companies also plan to monitor and analyze network traffic to better identify robocall patterns.

Related:
Getting Attacked by Robotexts? Here’s What to Do, The Wall Street Journal, 8/21/19