Over the years I have written numerous times about the problems presented by robocalls and with good reason. Automated robocalls which, for commercial purposes, are illegal, are the number one consumer complaint reported by the public to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at a cost to consumers of billions of dollars each year. The ease by which illegal robocalls may be made by computers accounts for much of the problem. Americans received more 4.4 billion robocalls last month and while the problem here is bad, robocalls are a worldwide phenomenon with Spain, United Kingdom, Italy and France all receiving more robocalls than the United States.
Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted a new rule that allows cell phone carriers to automatically drop robocalls through the use of technology that is able to identify illegal robocalls and block them. This technology is called the SHAKEN/STIR standard. SHAKEN/STIR is an acronym for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited. The rule leaves it up to the mobile phone carriers as whether they will charge their customers for this service although the FCC has encouraged the carriers to provide these services at no cost. SHAKEN/STIR technology verifies calls with a symbol on your phone indicating that the person calling you is legitimate and is actually calling you from the number that appears on your screen. While it doesn’t block robocalls, it does let you know if the call is legitimate so you can decide not to answer shady calls. The FCC required all phone networks to implement the technology by the end of of 2019, however it appears the phone carriers are going to beat that deadline. Now AT&T and T-Mobile announced that SHAKEN/STIR is available for calls between those two networks. Previously they had only implemented its use for calls within their own networks. This is not a cure-all, but it is definitely a big step in the battle against phone fraud.
However, a problem that many people overlook is that while scam robocalls are a big problem, legitimate robocalls serve a good purpose. Examples of legitimate robocalls are calls from your pharmacy about a prescription, calls from your doctor confirming an appointment, calls from your children’s school notifying you of a snow day, calls from your bank about a problem with an account or even calls warning you about an active shooter. Presently the technology being used to screen robocalls will sometimes block these legitimate robocalls to your detriment. Ultimately, it is up to the phone companies to refine the services they have developed in order to make sure that legitimate robocalls are not stopped.
While SHAKEN/STIR is important, it is not the only weapon against robocalls. As I first reported to you in the May 16th Scam of the day, Verizon has recently implemented new services to help its customers avoid illegal robocalls. The new Call Filter service offers spam alerts and new protections from robocalls for its wireless customers. Customers will receive alerts when a call is most likely a scam. The new Call Filter service will also automatically block robocalls based of the customer’s preferred risk level. The Call Filter service is offered in a free version and an enhanced version that among other things will enable customers to create a personal robocall block list. For more information about the Call Filter Services and how to sign up go to https://www.verizonwireless.com/solutions-and-services/call-filter/
There are a number of other options for preventing robocalls including a number of apps that for free or a small fee will reduce and in some instances prevent robocalls.
Samsung’s SmartCall informs you if the call you are receiving is from a known robocaller. This feature is available with newer Samsung Galaxy phones. Here is a link to information about SmartCall and instructions as to how to activate this app.
Google also has a spam blocker that will warn you when you are receiving a robocall and your screen will turn red. Here is a link to information about the app and how to install it.
AT&T also offers free apps to block robocalls on iPhones and Android phones. Here is a link to information about these apps.
Verizon’s CallerName ID is a free service for iPhones and Android phones that will alert you to suspected robocallers. Here is a link to Verizon’s app.
T-Mobile offers a free scam blocker of known robocallers for Android phones which you can activate by merely dialing #662#
Sprint offers a paid service to protect your iPhone or Android phone from robocalls. For more information, use this link
For landlines as well as smartphones there are a number of apps such as Nomorobo, Truecaller, Hiya, RoboKiller and YouMail that offer robocall blocking for free or for small monthly charges. Here is a link to those apps. I have used Nomorobo for years and find it to be tremendously useful
Finally, you can just choose to ignore any calls that come from numbers you do not recognize. This is a good option. If they are legitimate calls, they will leave a message and you can call them back. In particular, if a robocall does leave a message, you should listen to it right away in case it is one from a legitimate source.
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