STIR/SHAKEN Measures are Shaking Up the World of Illegal Robocalling
Few criminal schemes have raised the ire of U.S. consumers and government officials alike with quite the intensity of illegal robocalling. Perhaps it is the ubiquitous nature of the calls. With U.S. consumers receiving approximately 50 billion robocalls per year, almost no one escapes the unrelenting barrage. Not only do most people receive them, but some, unfortunately, get caught in the scammers’ web of lies. As evidence, consider the 50+ million Americans who lost money to a scam phone call in 2020 alone.
But there’s good news on the horizon. In 2021, robocalls dropped by 14% compared to the peak year of 2019, according to various sources. Many credit the decline, at least in part, to the adoption of the FCC’s STIR/SHAKEN requirements.
The Origins of STIR/SHAKEN
As everyone in the telecom industry knows, the FCC has made combating unlawful robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing a top consumer protection priority. This isn’t surprising, especially considering unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls - are the FCC's top consumer complaint.
Rising consumer irritation, coupled with growing problems among companies using robocalling for legitimate purposes – led to the FCC’s enactment of the STIR/SHAKEN requirements, with June 20, 2021, being the initial deadline for action.
STIR/SHAKEN — which stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENS (SHAKEN) – refers to the landmark consumer protection measure requiring voice service providers to take robocall mitigation steps.
While most voice service providers have filed STIR/SHAKEN implementation plans with the FCC’s Robocall Mitigation Database, earlier this month, the agency took the unprecedented step of issuing enforcement orders to seven telecom providers for non-compliance. If not remedied, these providers will no longer be able to originate traffic for U.S. networks. The action demonstrates the FCC’s growing impatience with robocallers and a willingness to act against telecom providers that don’t comply with STIR/SHAKEN requirements.
How the FCC Cracks Down on Robocalling
The FCC is using a variety of methods to reduce illegal calls. According to the agency, its efforts have resulted in a number of actions:
• Record-breaking spoofing and robocall fines
• Closing gateways used by international robocallers to reach Americans’ phones
• Widespread implementation of STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication standards to help traceback illegal calls and improve blocking tools to protect consumers
• The signing of robocall investigation partnerships with 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam
• Unprecedented policy proposals to combat the rising threat of bogus robo texts
The FCC also recently announced a major win on the robocalling front. In July, the agency’s Robocall Response Team mandated phone companies to stop carrying traffic for a known robocall scam marketing auto warranties, known as Sumco Panama companies. The company has generated 8 billion robocalls in the U.S. since 2018, according to the FCC, and is also the subject of a lawsuit by the Ohio Attorney General.
In making the announcement, the FCC noted that “Auto Warranty” scam robocalls resulted in more FCC consumer complaints than any other unwanted call category during each of the last two years.
While the FCC advances efforts to get tough with illegal robocallers, more measures will likely be needed to reign in the robocalling deluge. With 4 billion robocalls hitting Americans every month, it’s a huge task.
With its active and leading participation in the standardization of the STIR/SHAKEN solutions and the security and anti-fraud solutions in ATIS, GSMA and i3forum, netnumber GDS is on top of the recent developments and a serious conversation partner in the industry to assist Communication Service Providers (CSPs) with deciding on their most effective and investment friendly implementation.
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