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A M Reid
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Robocall scams involve the scammer phoning the receiver pretending to be someone else or an organization by using a spoof caller ID, and then manipulating them into revealing sensitive personal information or into paying a large sum of money, typically by using a pre-recorded message.
For example, if you answer the call, a recorded message might play saying you have a won free holiday vacation, and you need to provide your bank details to accept the prize. These scam robocalls are thought to cost Americans approximately $10 billion every year.
Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched new measures to fight against robocalls, announcing that phone companies are now required to use technology that tackles spoofing of caller ID.
On March 7th, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, during an interview on Fox and Friends with host Griff Jenkins, discussed in depth what the technology was and how exactly it would work.
“We really appreciate the opportunity to discuss our latest initiative to crack down on this problem of robocalls,” Chairman Pai said.
“We have already pulled out the stops in terms of reforming our rules and going after some of the bad actors, and recently I outlined our boldest step yet, to demand that phone companies implement a new caller ID authentication framework called STIR/SHAKEN.
“Essentially this would give a digital fingerprint to every single phone call, so you would know when you got the call whether or not the call was in fact legitimate,” Pai added. “That is going to be a big step forward in helping protect consumers from this hassle and sometimes the scam of these robocalls.”
With STIR/SHAKEN technology, scammers who use spoofing to robocall would get blacklisted, and their calls to consumers would either be completely blocked or come with an alert informing that it is a robocall.
To be at its most effective, STIR/SHAKEN needs to be adopted by all phone companies, as it is only possible to verify caller ID if both the sending and receiving carrier are using the technology.
“The biggest problem right now is that a lot of times when you see a phone number on your phone that seems to be from your area code, and you pick it up, it’s somebody else, who might be a world away. And the phone companies also might not know exactly whether or not that call was legitimate,” Pai remarked.
“By requiring them to implement this new STIR/SHAKEN caller ID framework, the companies will be able to verify the accuracy of that call, that digital fingerprint so-to-speak if it’s not there, then they can identify it as likely being a spam call, and that will enable phone companies to stop sending those calls over to consumers or at least identify them as being likely spam,” he added.
When asked by Jenkins during the interview when American consumers can expect to see this plan fully implemented, Pai answered within 18 months, and then went on to explain why it was such a long period of time.
“The FCC is proposing to mandate this framework be adopted within eighteen months, and I know that is a long period of time,” Pai noted, adding, “but one of the things that Congress has told us in recent legislation is that [an] 18-month framework would give the companies enough time to put all the technological tools in place, to be able to protect consumers.
“I am not just a regulator, I’m a consumer myself, we want consumers to get relief as soon as possible and we think that this framework is a good way of doing that.”
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