FCC bolsters protections against international robocalls

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Consumers also have tools they can use to protect against these calls

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules regarding robocalls. The agency is now making it a priority to stop illegal robocalls that originate from outside the U.S. before they ever make it to American soil.

The FCC’s new rules specifically affect gateway providers – what the FCC calls “on-ramps” for international call traffic. Going forward, those providers will have to adhere to firm compliance requirements under the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication protocols. They'll also need to take whatever measures are necessary to validate the identity of other providers that are involved with the traffic they're routing. 

The FCC has already been taking steps to address international robocalls with the help of other agencies. Last year, the agency worked with the Department of Justice to sentence an Indian national to 22 years in prison for conspiracy and identity theft in connection with his operation of an overseas robocall scam that defrauded thousands of U.S. consumers to the tune of more than $10 million.

“International robocall scams are widely understood to be a huge part of the robocall and spoofing problem facing American consumers and businesses,” the FCC said in a news release.

Efforts to stop domestic robocalls already seem to be well on their way. Transaction Network Services (TNS) recently reported that only 5% of all high-risk calls originated from Tier-1 U.S. carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, Charter, Lumen, and US Cellular) in the last year.

“Only a fraction of robocalls now originate on top US wireless networks, a testament to aggressive efforts by carriers, regulators and policymakers to combat unwanted calls,” said TNS Chief Marketing Officer Bill Versen.

The steps the FCC is taking

The FCC’s new rules require gateway providers to do four important things: participate in robocall mitigation (including blocking efforts), take full responsibility for illegal robocall campaigns on their networks, work with the FCC on enforcement efforts, and trace the source of illegal robocalls as quickly as possible.

“Non-compliance by a gateway provider may result in that provider being removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database and subject to mandatory blocking by other network participants, essentially ending its ability to operate” the FCC warned.

The agency says its new rules complement its other efforts to close down avenues for robocallers. The next important date that the agency has circled is June 30, 2022. On that day, it will sunset an exception afforded to certain small carriers for implementing STIR/SHAKEN. 

What consumers can do in the meantime

As wily as robocallers are, it might take some time before the FCC has completely eradicated robocalls from our lives. Until it does, there are things that consumers can do to better prevent those calls.

All of the major services have relatively new systems in place that can help. Call-protection options to identify or block potential scammers include these:

The FCC also provides a list of wireless device solutions that range from “Silence Unknown Callers” features for Apple iPhone owners, as well as Google Pixel phones’ “Call Screen” and “Smart Call” for Samsung phones. A complete list is available here.

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