Telecom industry working on dealing with spoofing, robocalls


FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Have you ever answered your cell or landline phone when the caller ID shows the number to be someone in your town, only to find out it’s a telemarketer?

That’s called spoofing and telecom officials discussed the practice, as well as robocalls, during a legislative committee meeting on Thursday.

Linda S. Vandeloop, assistant vice president for External Affairs at AT&T, said spoofing is only illegal if it’s done with the intent to defraud, and that there is such a thing as legal spoofing.  She cited as an example where all outgoing calls show up on Caller ID as the company’s main number, or a doctor whose office number shows up, even if he is calling from his cell phone.

Illegal spoofing is done in several different ways, she said.  “Either they’ll find an existing number, such as the IRS, spoof that number and hope people will answer.  We’ve started blocking that, so now they do ‘neighbor spoofing,’ using a fake local number.  They’ll program an area code, a prefix and using an auto dialer will make calls looking for an answer.”

She said the technology that has made our life easier, has made it easier for them, too.

Vandeloop said the telecom industry is now moving toward Caller ID Authentication. 

“The FCC has asked us to develop a proposal and a timeline, and that should be in place by May 2019,” Vandeloop said.  “Eventually, consumers will see a check mark on their phone, that the call is authenticated.  That’s going to significantly put a stop to spoofing.”

She added stopping spoofing and robocalls is not easy, as not all of them are in the United States.

Tyler Campbell, executive director of the Kentucky Telecom Association, said spoofing and robocalls are a big problem.  “Just last year, the FTC received four and a half million complaints about unwanted calls, and fraud from those calls is an issue, to the tune of about $9.5 billion annually.  This is an issue that the industry and the federal government are aware of.”

While prosecution of such fraud is difficult, Campbell says there have been some successes.  “Just last month, the FCC issued two fines totaling over $119 million, for illegally spoofed calls.  The FCC is working on new rules that will allow telecom companies to block certain types of calls.”

Campbell offered some tips for consumers:

--Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.  Most of them won’t leave a message,

--If you answer a call and are told to press a button on your phone, just hang up.  Scammers use that technique to identify a legitimate number.

--Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with something as simple as “yes.”

--Never give out any personal information, whether it’s your Social Security number, an account number or other identifying information, if you’re at all suspicious about the call.

--If you get a call from someone who says they represent a government agency or a company, hang up and call the number that’s listed on your account.

--Be cautious if you are being pressured to give information over the phone.

--Set a password for your voicemail.  That way if someone tries to spoof your number, they don’t have access to your voicemail and gain personal information that way.

--Contact your cell or landline telephone provider and ask if they have any robocall blocking tools that are available.

--Put a third-party app on your smart phone.  Many can reduce the number of unwanted robocalls.  If you currently use one, let your phone provider know the numbers that appear, so they can block them.

--Register your cell phone and landline phone number on the national Do Not Call list.  He says legitimate telemarketing firms obey the list.

Regarding calls received on landlines, Greg Hale, CEO and General Manager of the Logan Telephone Cooperative, said each carrier’s network is different, but some have already put protections in place.

“I know South Central Rural Telephone in Glasgow have implemented a switch-based solution, which they are giving free to customers,” Hale said.  “When the call comes in, the switch will check it against a database, and if it’s a ‘bad’ number, will play a message saying, ‘this number does not accept robocalls.’”

He said his company is awaiting installation of a similar system.  “It’ll cost us a little bit, but we are going to offer it free to any of our customers.  All they have to do is call our office and sign up for it.  I think you’ll find this becoming more common over the next six months or so, as we get clarification from the FCC that we can legitimately block calls.”



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