What the Tech: Fighting robo calls


Up until now, it’s been illegal for a cellular company to block a call. 

A new FCC proposal, if approved, will protect wireless carriers and give them the freedom to go after and block spam and robocalls aggressively.

The FCC has been trying to eliminate robocalls for five years, and wireless companies are using apps like NoMoRobo, HiYa, and developing their own technology to fight them — yet, we’re getting more calls than ever. 

According to the call-blocking app YouMail, 4.9 billion robocalls were placed last month, which is approximately 1,900 per second.

Blocking all robocalls is unlikely, but there is hope carriers will find success with new technology. 

In the past year or so, spammers started spoofing numbers with your area code –and even with the same area code and first three digits of your cell phone number — so that the robocalls appear to come from nearby. 

A new product called “SHAKEN/STIR” could identify those spoofed calls.

Here’s how it works: Your wireless carrier would verify your phone number. If a spammer uses your phone number, your carrier can then verify if the call is coming from your device. If it isn’t, the company could block the call. 

Calls from verified numbers would be identified on the receiver’s screen with a green checkmark similar to the ones you see on verified social media accounts. 

Some wireless companies are also using algorithms to identify spoofed calls by recognizing a bank of numbers that suddenly starts making thousands of calls in a short time — or if they detect that the numbers making calls are getting a lot of quick hang-ups from the people answering. 

With the FCC proposal, carriers could block those calls by default.

Another challenge for wireless carriers is allowing legitimate robocalls to get through, such as those placed by automated systems used by schools, pharmacists and credit card payment reminders.

While no silver bullet will keep you from ever getting a robocall again, the best hope is that ‘robo’ or spam calls will soon be identifiable when your phone rings and soon phone companies can start blocking them before you get buzzed. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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