FCC Cracks Down on Robocalling

Inside Subprime: Nov 21, 2018

By Grace Austin

The Federal Communications Commission is making additional efforts to crack down on robocalling, which has seen a major boost in the past few years.

The governmental agency issued a deadline of early November for phone carriers and companies to submit plans to help prevent illegal robocalling and aid consumers in avoiding scam phone calls. The FCC says its top consumer complaints and “priority” are the billions of robocalls sent a year; they even say that there are growing complaints that legitimate calls are being labeled as robocalls or scams and being blocked.

The Federal Trade Commission said in the first five months of 2017 alone, it received 1.9 million consumer complaints about illegal robocalling.

These scam phone calls market everything from financial products like payday loans to extended warranties on vehicles; financially desperate customers can incur losses as a result of these schemes. Consumers must give prior consent to those robocallers — if not, it’s illegal — and telemarketers aren’t allowed to call phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

The FCC has been focused on this issue for a few years now. But they say advancements in technology make it inexpensive and easy to make robocalls and to “spoof” caller ID information that hides the scammer on the other line.

Now, the FCC is pushing phone carriers and companies to meet new authentication standards. These guidelines would require phone carriers to verify calls with a digital signature. The companies would be tasked with using this system, which proves that the person making the call and the person receiving the call are who they say they are.

Those standards are also known technically as SHAKEN and STIR. As USA Today explained it, STIR, or Secure Telephone Identity Revisited, is a call-certifying procedure. SHAKEN, or Signature based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs, authenticates the caller’s ability to use their numbers. The system won’t block robocalls, but is expected to have some kind of indication attached to the ID to indicate it’s a legitimate call.

The FCC sent letters to all 14 major phone carriers asking them to submit their plans by early November.

One phone carrier firm has introduced a new “Name ID” app which is designed to block any type of robocall — from political calls to those from prison. Some robocalls, like for political campaigns and charities, are not illegal, but still can be unsolicited.

Other phone carriers and companies are expected to also integrate the authentication standards soon but right now there’s no specific date.

Experts say, for now, the best way to keep from falling victim to scam phone calls is to not pick up. This will help protect your phone number from being passed on to other scammers. It’s best not to answer any calls coming from a number you don’t recognize, even a number with a local area code. Scammers can use caller ID spoofing to make these calls seem legitimate. You should also be wary of callers asking for payment via gift card, since these calls are almost always scams.

For more information on scams, cash advances and title loans, check out all of our state-by-state Financial Resource Guides.

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