Automated calls are out of control. But that could change after June 30

Millions of Americans don’t even bother to answer calls from unknown or blocked numbers for fear that a call could come from an illegal robocaller. That could change with a June 30 FCC deadline that requires voice service providers to implement technology to force callers to identify themselves.

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A big deadline in the fight to push back those annoying robocalls comes on June 30. From that date, all major voice service providers in the United States, including the telephone companies AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile and the cable company Comcast, will have to implement a technology called Stir / Shaken.

This is good news for anyone whose phone is plagued by fake phone calls involving health-related scams, expiring auto warranties, and bogus banks offering non-existent interest rate cuts for credit cards. . For years, the scourge of illegal robocalls plagued the public. This is consumer complaint # 1 and a top priority to the Federal Communications Commission.

U.S. consumers received just under 22 billion automated calls in the first five months of the year, rising to more than 52 billion automated calls for the year, according to YouMail, a specialist company in blocking automated calls.

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Automated calls use automated dialers and recorded messages. To be fair, not all robocalls are bad or boring. Some companies and public entities use robocalls to communicate important information. For example, your pharmacy may use an automated check-in to tell you your prescription is ready to be picked up, or your children’s school may alert you to a snowy day. These are legitimate robocalls, and they require consumers to sign up to receive them.

Then there are the illegal robocallers. Because robocalls are cheap, they have been exploited by crooks around the world, who use them to defraud billions of dollars from Americans every year. The problem has become so serious that many of us do not answer the phone when it rings, especially if it is an unknown number on the caller ID. Too often, scammers disguise their phone numbers to trick people into answering.

The end of those annoying and expensive calls could be on the horizon with the implementation of Stir / Shaken, which will force voice providers to verify where calls are coming from. That’s where the FCC’s June 30 deadline comes in. To help you master this and other efforts to eliminate robocalls, CNET has put together this FAQ.

What is shake / shake?

“Stir” stands for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited” and “Shaken” for “signature-based processing of claimed information using tokens.” Stir is the technical protocol and Shaken is the framework through which calls can be tracked in the new robocall mitigation database.

The way it works is that Stir / Shaken technology ensures that calls going through telephone networks have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by the originating carriers and validated by other carriers before calls are made. do not reach you. In short, the technology authenticates the origin of a phone call and ensures that the caller ID information matches.

What is Caller ID Theft?

Identity theft is when callers conceal their identity by deliberately tampering with information transmitted to display your caller ID. The crooks do this to make the calls less easily trackable. Also, by using something called neighborhood spoofing, which makes the number appear to be a local number that you may already know or trust, scammers try to trick you into taking a call.

Is Identity Theft Illegal?

Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting deceptive or inaccurate caller ID information for the purpose of defrauding, causing harm, or obtaining wrongly something of value. Identity theft is not illegal if there is no intention to harm.

Illegal fraudsters can face fines of up to $ 10,000 per violation of the law.

Identity theft intended to disguise identity may be permitted in certain circumstances. For example, law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic violence, or doctors wishing to discuss private medical matters may all be exempt from these rules.

What is the Traced Act? How will this stop robocalls?

The Traced law (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) was enacted in December 2019 by President Donald Trump. It basically makes compliance with Stir / Shaken technology mandatory for all voice service providers.

The law ordered the FCC to develop rules requiring voice service providers to implement the technology within 18 months.

What is the June 30 deadline?

The FCC has set a June 30 deadline for companies that provide telephone service to implement Stir / Shaken, on call verification system that will make it harder for crooks to hide their numbers. Telephone companies will also need to post robocalls prevention policies in a public database.

The program was created at the end of 2019 by the Act traced. The FCC released the standards in March 2020 and set a deadline for service providers to comply at the end of June 2021.

Major telephone companies, such as AT&T, Verizon and T Mobile, as well as the cable company Comcast, said they were implementing Stir / Shaken. Several carriers have requested an extension, but the FCC rejected these petitions in March.

Does that mean we’ll see a huge drop in robocalls on July 1?

It is hope. But unfortunately, that probably won’t be the reality. On the one hand, some operators have already implemented Stir / Shaken. So the deadline won’t necessarily mark a difficult shift for most phone companies. It’s a technology and a framework that they’ve been implementing and deploying for quite some time.

The second reason is that scammers are always coming up with new ways to make illegal robocalls. The sad truth is that making these calls is cheap and scamming people is lucrative.

“It ends up being a mole game,” FCC commissioner Brendan Carr said in an interview with CNET in May. “So the long term solution is always difficult. We’ll see how much progress we can make.”

Will all carriers be required to meet this deadline?

Previously, the FCC had given small providers, those with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, until June 30, 2023, to implement Stir / Shaken. The expansion would allow smaller vendors to assess implementation costs and plan for deployment. But the FCC said in April that there is evidence that a large number of illegal robocalls are coming from a subset of small providers, so the agency offered to extend the deadline for those operators by a fraction. full year.

What is the government doing to stop illegal robocalls?

The Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC have worked together to combat robocalls. In March 2020, the MJ obtained an injunction against two Internet telephony providers that would have transmitted hundreds of millions of calls to consumers.

What about the FCC?

The agency has stepped up enforcement, sending cease and desist letters to operators who facilitate fraudulent calls and imposing fines on illegal robocallers. In one case, the FCC fined Texas telemarketers $ 225 million for spoofing approximately 1 billion automated calls.

Although June 30 is the deadline for carriers to implement Stir / Shaken, many carriers have already started using the technology. As these carriers made Stir / Shaken work, it became easier for the FCC to track down carriers who illegally transmit calls. And it could potentially get even easier as all carriers meet the implementation deadline.

“We must use all the tools at our disposal to eliminate these unwanted calls from our networks,” FCC Acting President Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. declaration in May. “From these new cease and desist letters, to the implementation of STIR / SHAKEN, to the significant fines and our robocall mitigation database, we will do everything we can to protect consumers from these. unwelcome calls, ”Rosenworcel said. “We are not going to stop until we remove the robocalls, the thieves and the crooks.”

Carr noted in an interview with CNET in May that there was no quick fix to stopping these calls. Multiple technologies and policies are needed to solve this problem, he said.

“I think combined is what’s going to break the backs of these robotic callers,” Carr said. “If not, we have to keep innovating and finding more technologies that are going to stop this, because the bad actors out there certainly have a profit motive to find a way around these systems. “

Is there more movement in Congress to get tougher?

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, introduced the Deter Obnoxious, Nefarious, and Outrageous Telephone (Do Not) Call Act to increase the penalties for individuals and businesses that intentionally prey on consumers through unsolicited calls. and illegal robocalls.

The law project :

  • Clarify violations under the Consumer Telephone Protection Act, which prohibits robocalls.
  • Allow jail terms of up to one year for willfully and knowingly violating the TCPA.
  • Allow prison sentences of up to three years for aggravated violations of the TCPA.
  • Double the maximum penalties under the TCPA for Caller ID tampering, from $ 10,000 to $ 20,000.

“Americans desperately want to ‘hang up the phone’ and the DO NOT Call law is the antidote we need to cut the cord of the ‘spoofing’ scams that particularly target older New Yorkers,” Schumer said in a statement. .

Gillibrand added, “This vital legislation will give the FCC the tools it needs to tackle scammers who grossly violate consumer protection law over the phone and, too often, target and defraud senior Americans. “

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