The fight against maddening, illegal robocalls just got easier.
Since June 30, big phone providers nationwide — such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast — must use caller ID verification technology to confirm that calls are really being made from the number being displayed.
That should stop con artists from “spoofing” phone numbers to trick people into answering a robocall.
“June 30 is an important day in consumer protection history. The FCC action to thwart robocalls will rank up there with laws guaranteeing consumer access to their credit reports and eliminating abusive credit card practices,” said Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
“Thousands of people fall for scams each year that start with an illegal robocall and spoofed phone number.. An elderly man in Cleveland lost $124,000 last month to a robocaller impersonating Amazon,” she said. “These kinds of cons happen every day.”
The scourge of unwanted calls has gotten so bad that many people have stopped answering the phone if they don’t recognize the number.
That’s where spoofing comes in. Scammers can make it look like the call is coming from the IRS, a bank or a neighbor — lending legitimacy to the call and making it more likely it will be answered. Some people have even reported getting calls from what looks to be their own phone numbers.
Spoofed calls also are harder to trace.
The FCC is now requiring big providers to use STIR/SHAKEN technology to verify that the caller ID information transmitted with a call matches the caller’s real phone number. The technology makes it easier for phone companies to block illegal robocalls or label them as likely spam.
Smaller phone companies with 100,000 or fewer subscriber lines were granted an extension until June 2023, but the FCC is formally considering shortening the extension.
Not all robocalls are illegal. Informational calls are allowed — such as from schools alerting families to snow days or pharmacies telling customers their prescriptions are ready. Robocalls from debt collectors, politicians, survey takers and most charities also are allowed.
But because robocalls are so cheap, they are a favorite of scammers.
Approximately 26.3 billion robocalls were placed nationwide during the first six months this year, according to YouMail, a call-managing service based in Irvine, Calif.
“While there is no silver bullet ... STIR/SHAKEN will turbo-charge many of the tools we use in our fight against robocalls: from consumer apps and network-level blocking, to enforcement investigations and shutting down the gateways used by international robocall campaigns,” acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement last week.
“This is a good day for American consumers who, like all of us, are sick and tired of illegal spoofed robocalls.”
Added Murray: “When our phone rings, we should be able to trust the caller ID on the display. That day is coming back.”