Robocops: telcos tackle nuisance calls as FCC rules come into force



  • T-Mobile US, Verizon talk up STIR/SHAKEN compliance on deadline day
  • BICS adds robocall prevention tech to its fraud mitigation platform
  • GSMA invites telcos to join new anti-fraud scheme launched with Mobileum

The deadline for operators to implement the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC)'s STIR/SHAKEN anti-robocall technology was on Wednesday, prompting some big names to promote their activities around tackling nuisance and fraudulent activity on their networks.

The US watchdog adopted the STIR/SHAKEN technical standards in March 2020. It mitigates spoofing by enabling a telco to check whether the caller ID that is transmitted when a call is placed matches the caller's phone number. In doing so, telcos can identify and block fraudulent calls before they reach subscribers. It also makes it easier for the authorities to identify the culprit.

Operators can also ensure that STIR/SHAKEN calls inbound from another operator's network will still work when terminating on their own.

On Wednesday, Verizon revealed that it has blocked no fewer than 13 billion unwanted calls to date. Being a good teacher's pet, it pointed out that it upgraded its mobile network to comply with STIR/SHAKEN in March 2019, more than two years before the deadline.

Its broader robocall prevention programme also includes a know-your-customer (KYC) scheme that uses analytics to identify sources of robocalls. It claims to have reduced the volume of nuisance calls by 500 million per month. Verizon is also part of USTelecom's Industry Traceback Group (ITG), which also helps to identify the source of robocalls.

T-Mobile also took the opportunity on Wednesday to talk up its STIR/SHAKEN compliance. Like Verizon, it has STIR/SHAKEN implementations with other operators, helping it to protect around 98 percent of US mobile customers. T-Mobile's STIR/SHAKEN rollout goes hand-in-hand with its Scam Shield offering, which is designed to give customers protection against unwanted texts as well as calls.

Not to be left out, AT&T revealed last week that its so-called spam-swatting technology – which includes spam alerts and a global anti-fraud team in addition to STIR/SHAKEN authentication – blocks or flags more than 1 billion unwanted calls per month. Others further afield are also now getting in on the action.

Belgian carrier BICS announced on Wednesday that it has added robocalling prevention to its fraud mitigation platform, FraudGuard. Using data crowdsourced from 900 operators and digital comms providers, it offers proactive detection and prevention of unwanted calls.

"With the advancement of our FraudGuard platform, we have augmented our threat intelligence capabilities to give operators greater insights into the fraud and security landscape to significantly mitigate the impact of robocalling attacks," said Katia Gonzalez, head of fraud prevention and security at BICS, in a statement.

Unsurprisingly, the GSMA is also making its voice heard. At Mobile World Congress this week, it invited telcos to trial a new, international fraud deterrent initiative it is developing in partnership with software maker Mobileum. It is encouraging the industry to share data on fraudulent and nuisance calls so it can deliver a coordinated response to them.

That response includes, but isn't limited to, live threat monitoring and alerts so people are aware of ongoing scam campaigns, as well as call validation to verify the provenance of a call.

"We're calling on telecom operators – mobile, fixed-line, Internet-based and wholesalers – to share their insights and experience so we can together locate and mitigate these sources of fraudulent activity," said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair, in a statement.

"By combining the industry's collective intelligence and locally based information with our latest technology, we can deliver game-changing support to tackle fraud," added Rui Paiva, chief of risk management at Mobileum.

Scam calls are a major issue for the industry, with fraud costing consumers $10 billion a year in the US alone. Hopefully the use of STIR/SHAKEN and the GSMA's and BICS' new efforts will get that number moving in the right direction.

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