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Fighting Robocalls With Technology

Whether you've dealt with bill collectors or telemarketers, there's a good chance that you've encountered a robocall at one point or another. Some of them are obvious, while others use sneaky tricks and tactics to try and cover their tracks. In either case, they've become a real nuisance – and lawmakers within the United States are finally starting to do something about it.

Robocalls at a Glance

The most basic robocalls rely on a computer-driven autodialer to locate numbers, usually within a specific region or area code, which are automatically dialed and presented with a pre-recorded message. While they are most frequently used by telemarketers and within political campaigns, they've been used for public service announcements and other purposes, too.

But this isn't the first time lawmakers have tried to crack down on robocalls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 placed some restrictions on automated calls. According to the TCPA, robocalls must perform two actions to be considered a "legal" call:

1. Use a pre-recorded message to identify the origin of the call

2. Include a telephone number or address where a live human can be reached

Additionally, robocalls are only legal when they are made to a landline telephone. Robocalls to cell phones and smartphones are expressly forbid, unless prior consent has been given by the recipient.

Furthermore, some individual states have passed additional laws and regulations. In Indiana and North Dakota, for example, all automated calls of a political nature are outright prohibited. While the state of New Hampshire technically allows robocalls of all kinds, the recipient can opt-out of them by joining the National Do Not Call Registry.

A Joint Effort

Unfortunately, the TCPA of 1991 wasn't enough. Robocalls have persisted and, in many ways, have grown even worse over the years. While many consumers have given up their landline telephones in favor of mobile connectivity, many businesses and organizations maintain traditional telephones for their day-to-day business needs.

This has spurred a frenzy of effort on behalf of lawmakers and telephone companies around the country. In fact, no less than 12 different carriers have agreed to utilize the latest in robocall-blocking technology on their end. Additionally, they've made a suite of anti-robocall tools available – at no cost – to consumers.

Finally, a new system known as STIR/SHAKEN is being deployed, too. This technology specifically targets spoofing – a practice where scammers and fraudsters are able to hide their true identities by faking their phone numbers on caller ID systems.

The 12 U.S.-based telephone carriers who have agreed to the new regulations include AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Consolidated, Comcast, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream. Although there is no hard deadline for implementation of these new measures, lawmakers expect telephone companies to act as soon as possible.

Josh Stein, attorney general of North Carolina and one of the original architects of the new standards, stated: "Illegal robocalls harass and harm our people. There is no silver bullet to put a stop to them, but these anti-robocall principles represent a dramatic step forward."


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