New rules to cut down on fraudulent ‘spoofed’ numbers, spam calls

Monitor staff
Published: 7/6/2021 5:34:40 PM

Next time you get a call from a 603 number you don’t recognize, pay attention to your phone – there is a chance it will be able to tell whether or not the call is actually coming from New Hampshire.

If you see the words “verified” or “number verified” it’s likely a legitimate call. If those words don’t appear, it’s likely a call from a scammer who spoofed the number, or it was unable to be verified.

Major cell phone carriers had until the end of the last month to comply with a Federal Communication Commission order to help customers better identify spam calls coming from within their own area codes.

The technology – known as STIR SHAKEN – allows the carrier of the phone to validate the caller id of the incoming call. The implementation of this technology will make it easier to tell when scammers are “spoofing” a local call number to get someone to pick up.

Brandon Garod, head of the New Hampshire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the technology will tell you if a call is coming from a verified number, but it won’t block the call itself.

“It will authenticate that the number that is appearing on your screen is actually the number that is appearing on your screen,” said Garod.

While the deadline was June 30, some carriers have already been using it, like T-Mobile and AT&T, which picked it up in 2019.

The technology is not fool-proof, as some phones, especially older ones, don’t support call verification, and on some devices, a user will see a checkmark next to a number as opposed to the word “verified” on the display.

These changes come at a time when robocall numbers are returning to pre-pandemic numbers.

About 37% of robocalls in the United States in 2021 are scams, according to YouMail, a developer of visual voicemail and robocall blocking software.

Before the pandemic Americans were getting about 5 million robocalls a month.

Not all carriers were subject to new rules as small carriers with less than one hundred thousand consumers will have two more years.

VoIP(Voice over internet protocol) carriers were also subject to this deadline. Many scammers use VoIP companies as their carriers as VoIP technology allows them to make calls over the internet from phones.

Alex Quilici, YouMail CEO, said scammers work with the VoIP companies just like regular businesses.

“So if I am a scammer and I want to get on the U.S. phone network and make a call, I have to have a company I work with that enables me to do that. The same way as if I am a real business and I want to get a VoIP number and make calls for my business,” said Quilici.

Just like they use the VoIP services like a regular business, they can be hard to differentiate from a regular business or at least at first, said Quilici. “It’s really hard to tell if someones a bad guy or not until they start making phone calls and you start getting complaints and you see this guy is doing a Medicare scam at which point they can turn them off, but it might take some time to detect it,” said Quilici.

Garod said the real fix might not be technological, but rather a cultural shift in how people use the phone.

“This wouldn’t be necessary if people simply shifted their current behaviors to not answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number,” said Garod, especially the elderly.

“That generation particularly has been trained throughout their life that it is common courtesy and politeness dictates that if someone is calling you, you answer the phone,” said Garod. “If people stop answering spam calls, spam calls will go away.”

Removing the entry point for scammers is key, said Garod.

“Their entire business model depends on people answering the phone. If they can’t get you on the phone, they can’t trick you into believing whatever fraudulent scenario they have cooked up,” said Garod.

Most scammers won’t bother leaving voicemails, but even if they do the recipient of the call will have time to look into who is actually calling them without the pressure of being on the line, Garod said.

“These people that are perpetrating these scams are almost always in foreign countries and are so cloaked in various methods of concealing phone numbers and fake email addresses and fake IP addresses, that it is almost impossible to identify them,” Garod said. “Any technological fix only guards against the technology that exists and identified at the time that the technology is developed.”

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