May 19, 2021

FCC Combats Call Spoofing with Robocall Mitigation Database

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FCC Creates Robocall Mitigation Database

It seems that, regardless of how much legislation passes, there’s just no stopping the rampant spread of robocalls. In an age where the majority of Americans have cell phones, it makes sense that spammers target consumers with robocalls. 97% of Americans, according to the most recent data, have cell phones. Of that, 85% of US consumers use smartphones.

Still, despite the many rules and regulations passed by the Federal Communications Commission, robocalls just keep coming through. This might not be the case for long though. The FCC is making it a priority to take their efforts to the next step by establishing a Robocall Mitigation Database.

Robocalls on the Rise

If you feel like you’ve been getting more robocalls than usual, it’s probably because you are. In March of 2021 alone, there were nearly five billion robocalls sent out to consumers across the United States. Of those five billion, close to half, about 43%, to be exact, were outright scams. Recent reports claim that this is a 56% increase compared to last year. This places the U.S. at number two on the list of most-spammed countries. For context, we were in the number eight spot just one year ago.

Consumer Wariness Affects Businesses

Because of the sheer number of robocalls going out, it’s common that consumers aren’t answering their phones. Particularly if they don’t recognize the number! This habit proves to be incredibly inconvenient. Especially for those waiting on calls from doctors, professionals, or companies whose numbers aren’t saved in the person’s contacts.

Carriers Employ Call Labeling

Carriers and call blocking apps employ “call labeling” to show a call’s intent now. When consumers give feedback on a number’s intent, the label displays to other phones. Call labeling includes things like “Spam Likely” or “Fraud Risk”. However, this can also lead to trouble when legitimate businesses receive erroneous flags from consumers.

FCC Implements the Robocall Mitigation Database

Ultimately, it falls on the shoulders of the FCC to put a stop to these incessant robocalls. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do with the Robocall Mitigation Database, or RMD. Starting September 28th of 2021, the FCC is making it a requirement for telecommunication companies to block all traffic from any company not registered with the FCC’s Robocall Mitigation Database.

RMD Works With STIR/SHAKEN

This new action comes in conjunction with the STIR/SHAKEN protocol, which was detailed back in the fall of 2020. STIR/SHAKEN is an acronym for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN). The FCC previously stated that companies had until June 30th to implement this protocol, which sets out to guarantee that the calling number of a telephone call is, in fact, accurate.

On paper, these two working in tandem should make a significant dent in the number of robocalls being sent out. In practice, though, some problems arise: Namely, the negative impact of erroneous call blocking.

Businesses Are Still Wary of the Robocall Mitigation Database

The Robocall Mitigation Database is undoubtedly well-intentioned, not to mention long overdue. However businesses still have plenty of questions that need answers. What happens if a business has its number receives erroneous flags or call labels? How is the FCC going to amend this problem? Businesses feel helpless at the hands of consumers and call blocking apps. Especially those that are conducting ethical outbound dialing practices.

Hopefully, as they did with STIR/SHAKEN, the FCC will grant businesses extensions if they request one. Still, it’s totally unclear how the FCC is going to verify reports of robocalling. How will they validate flagged numbers? And what will they do if a company challenges a flag placed on their number?

It’s totally understandable why businesses continue to be wary of the FCC’s robocall solutions. Particularly when said solutions could make things harder for them, not easier. Many rely on outbound dialing to operate, and the RMD could potentially change their business model forever.

FCC Is Getting Serious About Fines

While questions still linger about the RMD, the FCC is showing serious efforts to penalize bad actors. Phishers, spoofers, and scammers are receiving heavy fines for their part in facilitating illegal robocalls. Despite the wariness of legitimate businesses, the FCCs efforts are making a difference.

Record Setting Robocall Fine

For example, on April 21st of 2021, the FCC announced they were issuing fines totaling $225 million to two Texas telemarketing firms. Two companies, Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, were found guilty of selling fraudulent medical insurance in a spoofing scam. They weren’t the only two, either: the FCC also issued several other cease and desist letters to others involved in similar scams.

It doesn’t stop there, either: the FCC doled out similarly huge fines to spam robocallers back in 2020. It’s all part of a recent string of FCC fines totaling nearly half a billion dollars. It shows initiative if nothing else.

Outbound Calling Will Change as a Result of the Robocall Mitigation Database

The Robocall Mitigation Database will ultimately aim to reduce the number of illegal robocalls to consumers. However, there’s still plenty of uncertainty on the business side of things surrounding their methodology and how exactly it will work.

Businesses will likely continue to be wary until STIR/SHAKEN and the RMD are reach the consumer market. Only then will they be able to learn how to traverse it in real time and adjust their outbound calling tactics accordingly.

At the end of the day, businesses engaging in outbound dialing should continue to remain vigilant in ethical dialing practices. While outbound dialing is likely to change, the core principles will stay the same. Even as technology evolves, compliance, compassion and proper campaign strategies can help ensure your calls continue to connect to your customers. This is the best way to avoid any potential erroneous flags or massive FCC fines.