April 27, 2022

How Evolving Robocall Mitigation Efforts Pose Challenges for Businesses

Call blocking features have evolved with the advent of smart phones. However, as robocaller scams against consumers became more prevalent, the FCC, telecommunications carriers, and other third parties stepped in to create better mitigation methods. Some of these robocall mitigation efforts include call blocking, call labeling, call analytics, and call authentication.

Robocall Mitigation Efforts Pose Challenges for Businesses

Call Blocking Has Limitations

The concept of call blocking is solid. However, the application often fails to achieve the overall goal. When a phone number is blocked, the consumer will no longer receive calls from that number — but scammers are well aware of this. They employ tactics of rotating their numbers to ensure their calls still get through.

Be Wary of Purchased Numbers

Scammers often buy a block of numbers, cycle through them until they’ve all been marked as Spam or Scam Likely, then release the numbers back to the seller. This means that, at some point, legitimate businesses may unintentionally buy these same numbers.

Call Spoofing Targets Businesses

In addition, scammers often employ call-spoofing tactics. Call spoofing is the emulation of a legitimate business’s numbers to create an air of legitimacy. Although STIR/SHAKEN was developed to stop this problem, it hasn't stopped all robocalls.

While call blocking works to some extent, legitimate businesses continue to be affected. Many report seeing their numbers flagged or blocked when calling their customers.

STIR/SHAKEN Call Authentication Challenges

The development of call authentication in the STIR/SHAKEN framework has the potential to stop call spoofing with robocall mitigation efforts. It works by verifying that a call's origin is accurate through a series of authentication steps. Currently, this framework is only mandated in the U.S. and Canada.

Extensions for Voice Service Providers

Major voice service providers had to implement STIR/SHAKEN by June 30, 2021. Smaller voice services providers, such as Bandwidth and Vonage, were given extensions to implement STIR/SHAKEN protocols.

This has led to some providers still allowing traffic from robocallers through their networks, whether unintentionally or otherwise. Bandwidth and Vonage have been recommended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the Enforcement Bureau. Further monitoring is now necessary to ensure that these carriers comply with STIR/SHAKEN.

Attestation Challenges

Part of the STIR/SHAKEN framework of robocall mitigation efforts relies on a call's attestation rating. This assigns a value to the legitimacy of the call's origin based on relationships with service providers.

While this is generally working well for major carriers, it is not without hiccups. For instance, over 48 million calls with no attestation rating were rated “green”, causing some alarm regarding proper attestation rating protocols regarding rating assignments.

Analysis from Next Caller indicates carriers may not assign attestation ratings properly. Approximately 64% - 76% of monthly calls analyzed had no attestation.

More troubling, as noted above, a large portion of these calls were scored "green" or "valid." In contrast, about 117,000 calls given an A-Attestation rating could still pose a spoofing risk.

Call Analytics Used By Carriers

The FCC has allowed carriers to use "reasonable call analytics" to block calls. Call analytics require a carrier monitoring network traffic to look for suspicious behavior patterns. When suspicious behavior is likely a robocaller, carriers can block those calls.

This method stops unwanted calls from ever reaching a consumer's phone. While this is a great development in theory, it's not perfect. In most cases, carriers handle these services on an "opt-in" basis.

The drawback to this method is that some legitimate businesses are seeing their calls blocked by carriers. It is more difficult to identify and remediate for a legitimate business when this happens.

Call Labeling Developed to Show a Call's Intent

Call labeling is another promising method of mitigation. Not all "unwanted calls" are scams. However, consumers don't trust calls from unfamiliar parties. The goal of call labeling is to show the intent of a call. This can vary from "telemarketing, political, charity, etc."

Obviously, these calls should not be blocked for suspicious activity. But many consumers would like to opt out of receiving these calls. With call labels, a consumer can gain insight into the intent of a call to determine if they want to answer it. This allows them the freedom to screen calls of their own accord.

On the other hand, many carriers use call analytics to automatically assign a call label. Instead of outright blocking suspicious calling activity, a carrier may choose to label this with a Spam, Fraud, Scam, or Scam Likely call label.

While call labeling is a good concept that helps clean up the dialing ecosystem, again, it's not perfect. Some legitimate businesses are seeing their calls erroneously labeled. This can be even more prevalent with newly purchased numbers.

Vigilance in Your Calling Presence

As mitigation methods continue to evolve, it is more essential than ever that businesses monitor their calling presence. A bad caller ID can cost your business time, resources, and money — it can even tarnish your reputation.

Businesses should actively scan their phone numbers to ensure they're not receiving erroneous flags. In addition, Caller ID Reputation offers a “Carrier & App Remediation” section for businesses to contact providers that may have erroneously flagged phone numbers.

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