FCC to require phone carriers to authenticate calls by 2021

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The order is intended to help reduce the prevalence of robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on Tuesday that it will require all phone carriers to comply with the STIR/SHAKEN protocol by June 30, 2021 as part of its ongoing effort to shrink the volume of robocalls.

“These rules will further the FCC’s efforts to protect consumers against malicious caller ID ‘spoofing,’ which is often used during robocall scam campaigns to trick consumers into answering their phones,” the agency said in a statement

The STIR/SHAKEN protocol helps combat nuisance calls by allowing phone companies to verify that the caller ID information matches the caller’s actual phone number. 

“Widespread deployment of STIR/SHAKEN will reduce the effectiveness of illegal spoofing, allow law enforcement to identify bad actors more easily, and help phone companies identify calls with illegally spoofed caller ID information before those calls reach their subscribers,” the agency said. 

Robocalls cost consumers millions 

The FCC estimates that fraudulent robocall schemes cost consumers around $10 million annually. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that combatting unlawful robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing is his number one priority.

“We know that these calls are a major concern of millions of Americans, and scam calls in particular can result in very real financial losses and serious consumer frustration,” Pai said in 2018, when the agency initially began pushing carriers to adopt the protocol. “We are therefore committed to using every resource in our tool box and working closely with private, public, and international partners to combat unlawful robocalls and spoofing.”

Implementing a 2021 deadline for the adoption for the STIR/SHAKEN protocol carries out provisions in the TRACED Act, which was passed by Congress last year. The regulation gave the FCC more authority when it comes to its efforts to combat illegal robocalls. 

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworsel applauded the agency’s latest effort to reduce robocalls but lamented that it wasn’t done sooner in light of the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be increasing the volume of robocalls

“We are seeing alarming reports of an increase in calls from scam artists hawking fraudulent cures and taking advantage of so many people in so many households who are stuck at home,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “So, let me state this as clearly as a I can: there should be swift and harsh action holding accountable those preying on the vulnerable during this disaster.”

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