The Federal Communications Commission has cracked down hard on sources of robocalls, even holding telecommunication companies accountable for allowing scam calls to pass through their networks. Despite the effort, spam calls are making a comeback, and could hit you just as student loan repayments are expected to resume.
Blocking service Robokiller reports spam calls increased by 5% in August, showing scammers are evolving to evade detection. That small percentage equates to a staggering 5.4 billion extra calls last month and collectively cost U.S. households $9.2 billion, according to Robokiller. Robocallers often present themselves as legit companies, such as banks, credit cards, debt collectors, medical providers, or those dreaded auto warranty offers.
The rise in robocalls – and the resulting cost – offers a good sense of the scope and endurance of the problem. Despite regulatory and technical efforts to stem the tide of robocalls, they remain a large and expensive problem.
And it may only get worse.
When student loan payments — delayed as a result a pandemic-era relief policy — resume next month, Robokiller expects more calls and sneakier tactics, resulting in a “robocall rebound.”
“After the FCC’s success in taking down infamous robocalls, scammers are getting smarter,” said Giulia Porter, vice president at Robokiller. “With student loan repayments resuming in October and the holiday shopping season right around the corner, Americans should be aware of scams impersonating well-known brands or too-good-to-be-true debt relief offers.”
The FCC has attempted to block fraudsters by sniffing out and cutting them off at the source. The commission has reported monthly robocall declines since launching its Robocall Response Team to combat scams. Robotexts continue to decrease in frequency and fell by 4% in August to 11.3 billion. Still, this year is on track to break 2022’s record of $85 billion lost to scammers, according to Telecompetitor.
The problem is illegal scammers can shut down quickly and start over under a new name. It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to set up a spam call operation.
Another tactic goes after telecommunication companies allowing fraudulent traffic. Programs such as STIR/SHAKEN put the burden of implementing a caller ID authentication framework to block illegal calls on the wireless carriers. Some providers have yet to, or are unable to, initiate this, which keeps the scam call floodgates open. Other providers, such as Owl One, refuse to comply with these regulations, resulting in the company facing possible network blocking for failure to do so.
The FCC on Thursday also updated several rules to further crack down on robocallers that use VIOP services including:
· Make robocall-related certifications to help ensure compliance with the Commission’s rules targeting illegal robocalls.
· Disclose and keep current information about their ownership, including foreign ownership, to mitigate the risk of providing bad actors abroad with access to U.S. numbering resources.
· Certify to their compliance with other Commission rules applicable to interconnected VoIP providers including certain public safety and access stimulation rules, and requirements to submit timely FCC Forms 477 and 499 filings.
· Comply with state laws and registration requirements that are applicable to businesses in each state in which numbers are requested.
When dealing with spam calls, avoid taking a call when you don’t recognize the number. That’s especially the case if it comes from your local area code, since scammers have gotten good at spoofing numbers in your area. You can also flag them to your carrier or within iOS and Android.
Another way to block unwanted calls is to download services like Robokiller or Hiya, which can stop scam callers and texters from reaching your phone. The Federal Trade Commission deemed it an effective solution to preventing robocalls in addition to registering on the National Do Not Call List and reporting suspicious activity.