Robots are dropping as FCC rules come into effect; advocates say more needs to be done – Cronkite News


The new FCC regulations may have resulted in a reduction in robocalls, which fell from 87.6 million in Arizona in June to 84.2 million in July. But analysts say phone companies can and should do more to reduce the number of spam calls. (Photo by Genesis Sandoval / Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Automated calls to Arizona residents fell by more than 3 million in July, to about 84.4 million for the month, as the first phase of a new federal mandate went into effect that requires companies to implement anti-robocall measures.

But consumer advocates say telephone companies could do more.

A report last month from the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that only 16 of the country’s 49 largest telephone companies had fully implemented STIR / SHAKEN technology by the September 28 deadline, and another 18 had it. had partially implemented.

In Arizona, of the 18 who reported to the Federal Communications Commission, seven said they had fully integrated the system and 11 did so partially. Another state supplier had not reported to the FCC on September 28, the USPIRG said.

The FCC rule gave the top five operators a June 30 deadline to install the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) / SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs) system, which allows providers to authenticate caller ID in order to reduce fraudulent robocalls. . Small carriers have had until September 28 to report on their progress on the new program.

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The FCC did not respond to calls about the progress of providers. But Diane Brown, executive director of the ArizonaPIRG Education Fund, said companies were falling short.

“Our research showed that more than half of the companies that reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission were not using industry standards, but instead were using their own methods to handle robocalls,” Brown said.

“Businesses should always use the highest standards to protect consumers,” Brown said as STIR / SHAKEN.

This was echoed by YouMail CEO Alex Quilici.

“It’s definitely not enough for these guys to create their own plan,” said Quilici, whose company tracks spam and robocalls.

“Some of the plans that have been filed with the FCC are simply ‘We promise to watch out for bad robocalls and stop them’, and that’s the extent of that,” he said. “Just having a transporter file a shot saying, ‘I promise to be a good guy,’ isn’t going to cut it.”

Lumen Technologies, which operates in Arizona as CenturyLink, said in an emailed statement that it understands the frustration with illegal robocalls and is working to stop them.

“We have deployed STIR / SHAKEN call authentication technology on the Internet Protocol (IP) portions of our network, which improves the speed and efficiency of the traceback initiative,” the statement said. “This makes it easier for authorities to identify and prosecute illegal robocalls, while helping consumers be sure that callers are who they say they are. “

The statement went on to say that the company shares “our customers’ frustration with fraudulent and unwanted automated telephone solicitations and is committed to doing our part to end these annoying and harmful calls.”

YouMail said more than 4 billion automated calls were made over U.S. phone lines in September, including 84.4 million in Arizona. Calls in the state have fallen since 2019, when they peaked at $ 1.1 billion for the year, a drop Quilici attributes to law enforcement efforts to crack down on fraudulent calls.

Not all robocalls are illegal, but the ones that are can be costly and frustrating.

“A legal robocall is one that a consumer makes, such as an order, a child’s school is closed, or a plane flight is delayed,” Brown said. “Illegal robocalls are designed to defraud or commit fraud against a consumer. “

Automated callers often use caller ID spoofing, which allows callers to disguise their identity with a fake number. This includes what the FCC calls “neighborhood spoofing,” which makes it look like a scammer’s call is coming from a local phone number that people are more likely to answer.

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YouMail found that 31% of robocalls in Arizona in September were from scammers.

“Besides being annoying, illegal robocalls cost Americans $ 3 billion a year in lost time and an additional $ 10 billion a year in fraud,” Brown said. “Illegal robocalls can have a significant financial impact on consumers and their credit. “

In a June statement, the FCC said the new standards should help identify bad players.

“The implementation of caller ID authentication technology using STIR / SHAKEN standards will reduce the effectiveness of illegal identity theft, allow law enforcement to identify bad actors more easily and help voice service providers identify calls containing illegally spoofed caller ID information before those calls reach their subscribers. “, says the press release.

But Quilici said the FCC rules are just a step. Actual stopping of robocalls will require a combination of efforts, he said, as do consumers using apps to prevent robocalls, fraudster tracking systems, and authorities punishing scammers once. that they are caught.

“Regulation has never solved a technology problem,” he said. “The problem here is that it’s easy and cheap for almost everyone to make a lot of automated calls.

“You need an app, you need technology, you need consumers to change their behavior, and you need regulation. None of them will solve the problem on their own, ”Quilici said. “What you’ll see is that over time all of these things will put pressure on the bad guys to make it harder and harder for the bad guys to succeed.”

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