Handling Robocalls With VoIP

Handling Robocalls With VoIP

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One of the most appealing features of a VoIP system is its ability to handle a huge volume of phone calls, including both inbound and outbound calls. But these features which are loved by all businesses that have VoIP installed, are also targets for scammers, in large part simply because of their popularity.

If you haven’t heard the term ‘robocall’ before, it simply refers to those calls which come with a pre-recorded message rather than from a legitimate person. When a phone call is made by a computer rather than a person, and it is initiated by software to play a message when the phone is answered, it’s considered a robocall.

In some cases, robocalls are fairly legitimate, for instance when they’re used by political campaigners, telemarketers, or government agencies wishing to send out public service announcements. However, by far the huge majority the time, these robocalls are illegal telemarketing messages or outright scams.

Robocalls and VoIP

In the past few years, the number of robocalls have increased dramatically, and in fact they now outdistance the number of calls made by actual humans by a considerable margin. The numbers are even continuing to rise, in part because of the widespread use of VoIP technology. Scammers have learned that they can use VoIP phones to call numbers based in the US from outside the country.

Since the calls don’t originate from within the US, authorities have no legal jurisdiction to pursue the callers and force them to stop. It’s very hard to track down the source of all these calls in the first place, but even if that could be done, there are no legal grounds to take action against them.

Robocalls are Made More Efficient by VoIP

Scammers have also learned that robocalls can be made much more cheaply and more efficiently through VoIP, than they could be when conducted by actual humans. Scammers don’t have to pay people to sit in an office and make tons of phone calls over an eight-hour period. Instead, computers can be programmed to auto-dial hundreds or even thousands of phone numbers, and play recorded messages for all 24 hours of a given day. Needless to say, computers don’t need breaks, and they don’t go home at the end of a work day.

Criminals use the very same tools which businessmen do to increase the efficiency of their operation. Because VoIP allows multiple users to share a single phone number, employees have to be able to establish their personal caller ID. This feature is used by scammers to call unwitting victims in a specific area code, which greatly increases the likelihood of the call being answered.

VoIP providers also offer features to their customers so that large groups of clients can be contacted at same time, for instance to alert them about the launch of a new product or an upcoming sale or discount. This is exactly the kind of service that a scammer can make tremendous use of in Europe, so as to make tons of phone calls to American customers, regardless of any laws which may be in effect. Since VoIP providers have no way of detecting fraudulent clients from legitimate ones, they have to provide services to anyone who pays them the required monthly subscription fee.

You are also not protected from robocalls by registering on the national Do Not Call Registry, because only legitimate businesses will abide by those terms. Individuals with criminal intent will completely ignore the registry and will call you anyway. Even though robocalling has been illegal since 2009, there are a number of perpetrators around the world who still make great use of the practice.

STIR/SHAKEN: What is it and why does it matter?

STIR/SHAKEN is a new technology designed to reduce fraudulent robocalls and illegal phone number spoofing. STIR stands for Secure Telephony Identity Revisited. SHAKEN stands for Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.  Simply stated; It requires every call made into the North American Telephone System to have a unique tag that can actually be traced back to its origin.  There is no hiding from this.  Soon every call not authenticated will be either marked as SPAM or BLOCKED.

The FCC has adopted rules requiring service providers to deploy a STIR/SHAKEN solution by June 30, 2021.  However there is a loophole still allowing some smaller providers additional time.  These small players are processing the SPAM calls now.  At some point in the future they will be BLOCKED.

What’s the difference between STIR and SHAKEN?
STIR is  the result of an internet standards body, which has developed a set of protocols used to create a digital signature for a call. The signed call includes information about the calling party and allows for verification of the signature by the terminating provider.

SHAKEN are the standards for how STIR is to be deployed by service providers within their networks.

Why is STIR/SHAKEN so important?
Between 3 and 5 billion robocalls are made every month, and research suggests that more than 40% of those calls are thought to be fraud-related.

STIR/SHAKEN is an initiative mandated by the FCC to restore trust in our voice communications. Its ultimate goal is to prevent people from getting scammed through robocalls and illegal phone number spoofing, while making sure that legitimate calls reach the recipient.

Handling Robocalls

The number one rule of handling robocalls is a very simple one – do not interact with the caller in any way, shape, or form. If you do answer, it’s quite likely that your phone number will be added to a hotlist and sold to telemarketers all over the world. Your best option when you realize you’ve received a robocall, is to just hang up.

That prevents your phone number from being sold around, and it also avoids any possibility of you falling for a scam. Apart from that, it’s still a good idea to register for the Do Not Call service, even if it doesn’t stop the robocalls, because what it does accomplish is that it allows you to report these calls to the Federal Trade Commission.

Since you have indicated that you don’t want to be called, anyone who does call you can be tracked down and fined. Even if legislation can’t quite protect consumers from robocalls, there are times when technology steps in to save the day. Virtually all modern smartphones provide some kind of blocking option for unwanted phone calls, and usually suspected spam calls are quarantined, so you’re not obliged to answer.

There are also a good number of call-blocking applications which are available for smartphones, either for free, or on a paid basis. There are also some VoIP providers who offer a call-blocking service, so if robocalls get to be a problem for your company, you should check with your VoIP provider to see if they can offer a solution.

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