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June 4th, 2019

Going “All In” to Stop Scam Robocalls: Senate Approves TRACED Act

May 23, 2019: Passed, 97-1; S. 151, The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act
Sooner than expected, but not soon enough for most consumers, the United States Senate has approved amendments to the TRACED Act to take on robocalls. This fast-tracked legislation, arguably one of the biggest moves yet, will increase fines up to $10,000 for each call and increase the statute of limitations for prosecution up to three years for violators. For service providers, it will require call authentication to be developed, rules to be established for call blocking, and a process to authenticate and dispute for those whose calls are blocked adversely. Also, an interagency working group is to be formed by the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to report on the progress. Next, the bill will go to the House.

Are they going up, or are they going down?

With robocalls and scams, it’s hard to tell. Earlier this year, Hiya reported a 325% growth in spam calls worldwide in 2018. Earlier this month, YouMail’s Robocall Index noted a 6.5% increase in robocalls nationally from April 2019 over March 2019 and an increase of 34.4% over April 2018. But in March 2019, it reported that there’d been a drop in robocalls in February, down from the all-time high of 5.2 billion in January. From Neustar’s unique perspective in providing Caller ID for the industry, we have seen a slight drop in calls. While this cannot be directly attributed to any specific action, indications are that anti-robocall tools deployed by Neustar, analytics vendors, and service providers are having a positive impact.


Solving the top consumer complaint

Whether up or down, what we do know is that robocalls still plague consumers at epidemic levels and remain the top consumer complaint received by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). That’s why it was interesting to see the one vote against the TRACED Act, as it seems it’s needed now more than ever. Expectations are for increasing legislation against robocalls, including more laws from the House. All are in line with the push from the FCC to protect consumers.

In the last two years, the FCC has enacted rules that allow service providers to block calls from known fraudulent numbers, levied the largest fines in history to robocall kingpins, written directly to the heads of the leading phone companies to urge them to deploy call authentication, and proposed that call blocking by carriers be offered by default for all subscribers. Recently, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called a Robocall Summit for July 11, 2019, to check in on progress.

While the FCC and regulators work to raise awareness and take action to protect consumers, the industry has responded by providing anti-robocall analytic tools to detect, flag, and block calls. And more recently, the industry has focused on adopting STIR/SHAKEN to use digital certificate technology to verify that phone calls aren’t being spoofed by fraudsters. Interoperability testing of STIR/SHAKEN implementations in the ATIS Robocall Testbed is up 188% since December 2017.

What does this mean for enterprise calling?

While all of this is certainly good news for consumers, increasing anti-robocall techniques also increases the amount of enterprise to consumer calls that are inadvertently blocked or tagged as spam. For businesses that rely on the phone to connect with customers, this means putting a plan in place to ensure that these calls get through.

It’s time to pull out all the stops, so we can trust answering calls once again. Are you ready?

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