Prepare yourself for predatory robocalls.
It’s Sunday evening. You’re on the couch, catching up on your weekly TV shows. Your cell phone rings unexpectedly. Not during “The White Lotus,” you think to yourself. Who could it be?
You lift your phone and glance at the screen. You don’t recognize the number. Inner conflict emerges; you wonder if you should answer. What if it’s an emergency? A skeptical squint. An all-too-familiar seed of doubt appears. What if it’s a scam? From one vibration to the next, your curiosity begins to take over. Time is running out. A split decision is made. You answer the call …
“This is a final reminder from the office of the inspector general of Social Security Administration to inform you that we require your Social Security number …” drones the monotonic voice on the line.
If you receive a robocall like this, the first step is to remain calm. Generally speaking, automated calls that instill a sense of fear or urgency are intentionally deceptive and aren’t legitimate. Whether you’re looking for common red flags to avoid or actions you can take, we’ve put together some ways to help you separate the bogus from the bona fide.
$8.8 billion lost from 4 billion robocalls
According to an analysis by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), U.S. consumers receive approximately 4 billion robocalls every month. New data from the Federal Trade Commission found that consumers lost $8.8 billion in 2022 because of fraudulent robocalls. Those statistics may have you questioning the legality of robocalls. The truth of the matter lies somewhere in the middle, depending on your location and the intent of the call.
In the United States, some automated telephone calls are legitimate – medical appointment reminders, flight cancellation notifications, debt collection notices or charity donation outreach calls. But unsolicited calls that are intentionally designed to trick or scam people – which are the FCC’s top consumer complaint – are illegal unless the company or caller obtained your consent on paper or electronically beforehand.
Along with work by the FCC, various phone companies, service providers and app developers make call-blocking and labeling services (that help detect whether an incoming call is likely to be fraudulent based on call patterns and consumer complaints) available to their customers.
By implementing policy initiatives and pursuing enforcement, the FCC has made a meaningful pledge that actively seeks to counter unlawful robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing – by making consumer protection a top priority. Here’s what’s worth noting:
The FCC’s Robocall Response Team and the TRACED Act
The Robocall Response Team combines the cross-disciplinary knowledge and experience from across the FCC – including myriad professionals from enforcers, economists and engineers to attorneys, policymakers and outreach experts.
In the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, the U.S. government helped equip the FCC, including its Robocall Response Team, with new tools to fight unwanted and caller ID spoofing calls. Since the TRACED Act’s implementation, the FCC has aimed to promptly provide Americans with new protections against unwanted robocalls by mandating the STIR/SHAKEN caller identification framework among other key initiatives.
- Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas hold the top four spots for most reported scam calls.
- In 2021, Dallas/Fort Worth was the highest-targeted metro for scam calls in the United States.
- Three of the top five forms of fraud are phone related.
- In March 2023 Americans received 5 billion robocalls – the highest monthly total since November 2019
STIR and SHAKEN verification
Shaken and stirred might be conjuring up ideas of secret agents and MI6, but in this context STIR and SHAKEN are acronyms for the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards.
This technology framework helps prevent robocallers from hiding their identity. In essence, it makes sure legitimate calls reach the consumer – thus reducing the number of fraudulent calls.
So, how does it work? STIR/SHAKEN uses caller ID authentication technology to validate every call that passes through a complex web of phone networks, enabling the person receiving the call to verify the number is coming with genuine intent. As the consumer, this can help you block irritating spam calls, alert you of fraudulent numbers and save you valuable time by protecting your information.
Sources: fcc.gov; consumer.ftc.gov; ftc.gov; businessinsider.com; enterprisetoday.com; kaspersky.com; youtube.com/@usagov1; t-mobile.com/news; westernbank.com