Jul 1, 2022 - News

Inside the battle against robocalls

Illustration of an incoming call spam notification on a phone behind prison bars
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

New federal regulations kicked in a year ago to combat and identify robocalls using fake local numbers.

  • Called STIR/SHAKEN, the regulations make carriers authenticate numbers, share information on bad actors and alert consumers with "potential spam" notifications.

Yes, but: Scam calls, and even more texts, are still coming through.

  • Americans received 78.9 billion robocalls in 2021, according to data service company Transaction Network Services (TNS).
  • In May, Chicago was hit with the third-heaviest volume of spam calls in the nation, according to TNS.

By the numbers: We surveyed our readers on their daily spam calls. Out of 141 people, we found that:

  • 53% of respondents said they get one to three daily robocalls.
  • 47% said they get three or more.
  • Zero respondents said they never get them.

The intrigue: While major carriers have largely complied with the new regulations, many international and smaller VoIP carriers have not.  

  • "In some ways this progress has driven bad actors to smaller providers, namely VoIP networks, which accounted for the overwhelming majority of unwanted robocalls last year," Jim Tyrrell, director of product marketing at TNS, tells Axios.

Be smart: The FCC offers basic tips on robocalls, including:

  • Ignoring calls from unknown numbers.
  • If a robocall asks you to press a button to "stop receiving calls" or asks you to answer "yes" to a question, hang up.
  • If the caller claims to be from a known company, hang up and call that company using a number from their website.

Pro tip: Tyrrell also recommends using call blocking apps that offer options beyond never answering unknown numbers.

  • "This is important, because our own data finds that consumers find it more frustrating to miss an important call than to answer an unwanted call," he says.
  • Full disclosure: TNS makes one of these apps, called Call Guardian.

What's next: The FCC passed new rules in May that tighten standards for overseas providers.

  • They also moved up the deadline — to yesterday — for smaller providers to finally comply with STIR/SHAKEN.
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