What Companies Do About Spam Calls

Maybe the call was from your area code. Maybe your phone blocked it and you only saw it appear as a voicemail message. Or, perhaps in a weird twist, it appeared as your own phone number, as if calling each other.

Either way, chances are you’ve had at least one robocall in recent weeks if you’re in the US, due to the sheer volume made each month. Experts agree that it’s not hundreds or thousands of calls here, but a few billions, although it gets a little trickier when you try to narrow that down to an exact number.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Challenge of Call Counting

There is no official single source that actually tallies the number of robocalls made each month, let alone the number of other spam calls made by real people. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both collect complaints related to these calls, but experts such as Margot Saunders, who recently co-authored a report on spam robocalls for the National Consumer Law Center, rely on industry estimates to capture the scope of the problem.

One such estimate comes from YouMail’s Index of robocalls, which provides estimates based on the volume of robocalls received by its customers. In August, the index put the number of robocalls at a year high, up nearly 4.5 million for the month; September saw a drop to an average of 4.2 million. However, Saunders notes that some robocalls might be necessary, such as those you receive from your pharmacy when your prescription is ready or those alerting you to an upcoming appointment. When you look at just telemarketing and scam calls, Saunders says YouMail’s estimate is around 1 billion on average each month so far this year.

“The [annual] The percentage is down from the 2021 high, but it’s still higher than it was in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019,” Saunders explained.

What changed ?

David Frankel, founder and CEO of ZipDX LLC and telecommunications industry veteran who has previously testified Congress on robocalls, believes that there has been a significant shift in recent years in the creation of an accountability system for robocalls.

“In the past, telephone companies took no responsibility for calls that passed through their networks,” Frankel said.

However, new regulations have put more weight on the shoulders of telecom operators. For example, the 2019 TRACED Act required both the FCC and telecommunications companies to implement better caller ID pathways, including complying with caller ID standards known as the name of STIR/SHAKEN (which, confusingly enough, stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using tokens). Frankel likens the technology to putting a return address on an envelope, adding an extra layer of accountability that makes it easier to understand who to hold accountable if something goes wrong, like when you get your tenth robocall of the month for debt consolidation.

Although it was adopted in 2019, large telecom providers had until 2021 to implement the protocol, and smaller providers had until June this year to comply. As of May, this compliance also extends to gateway providers that facilitate international call traffic. Now, says Frankel, the question is whether or not the FCC enforces these standards.

“It’s a question of responsibility. He follows the rules,” Frankel says. “It’s about making sure the businesses and corporations closest to these bad apples refuse to do business with them until they follow the rules.”

The next frontier: spam

One number that is definitely on the rise is the number of spam emails the United States has received this year. In July, the FCC issued a consumer alert warning of text scams, citing a spike in complaints from 5,700 in 2019 to 8,500 through June this year. And on Tuesday, the agency released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Apply stricter caller ID standards to text messages, which would involve requiring mobile wireless service providers to block messages that appear to be spam at the network level. The FCC is currently collecting public comment on the proposal.

Waiting…

If you’re frustrated with spam calls and texts, experts recommend a few steps to potentially reduce the volume or, at least, alert the authorities that you’re receiving them. First, Frankel recommends adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. You can also report fraudulent calls to FCC and FTC. Many leading telecommunications companies and phone providers have also rolled out their own spam call blocking services over the past few years. It is therefore worth exploring the offers related to your specific configuration.

When it comes to bot texting, if you receive a message such as a marketing or campaign notification that you no longer wish to receive, Saunders says you can simply reply “stop” to prevent further messages from that number. If the message seems unknown or suspicious, the FCC recommends that you do not interact directly with the number and instead forward it to 7726 (or SPAM) and then delete the message.

About Roberto Frank

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