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Robocalls, SPAM, and Scams
April 2018

We have all had those annoying telemarketer calls trying to sell unwanted products at dinner, or worse, scam calls trying to trick or scare us into giving out information. It is a common problem in our tech-filled lives in our telephone experience at home and work. With the changes in the telecommunication network over the last 20 years, these problems have continued to grow with the addition of Robocalls, Number Spoofing, and auto dialer software. With this growing problem, what can we as users of the telecommunication network do to address and solve this issue, or at least mitigate the annoyance?
 
One of the most common requests we receive at NocTel is “can you block this number?” or “can you stop unwanted telemarketing call from reaching my business?”  Currently call blocking is not a feature that NocTel has implemented. NocTel feels this approach doesn’t address the root issue and can lead to more problems related to managing blocked numbers and inadvertently blocking legitimate callers. With number spoofing abilities scammers can disguise their Caller ID or choose a different number from a pool to use as the dialing number, which is displayed on your handset when the call is received. This makes it incredibly hard to stay ahead and accurately block a phony caller who spoofs a legitimate number. Blocking a spoofed number could lead to you blocking a real future client. As for the bad actor making those calls? He just moves on to the next Caller ID or phone number and continues on unimpeded. 

So why not just block all telemarketing or robocalls? The underlying problem with spoofed or spam calls is the same problem that post mail and email have: well-crafted fake items appear legitimate, so reasonable filtering or identification don't always work reliably. However, telephone calls can't have their contents inspected before delivery to the recipient, so there is no way to reliably identify the intent or identity with complete accuracy without responding to the call. Given this and the relative ease a given bad actor can simply use a different spoofed Caller ID or phone number, NocTel does not believe implementing call blocking is truly effective in addressing the annoyance. Additionally, prescreening or responding to calls - even suspect ones - presents a privacy risk to customers, which also represents an infeasible risk to NocTel.

So what actions can you take, and what actions might NocTel take to help tackle this growing issue?

First, we need to talk about the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry (DNC Registry) and its purpose. While the DNC Registry won’t stop all unwanted calls, it does prohibit any legitimate sales calls from contacting you that may be an annoyance after repeated interactions - perhaps even after voicing you do not wish to be contacted again. If you have not already placed your numbers on the DNC Registry, you should go to donotcall.gov and add your numbers now. Currently, the FTC merely recommends not answering calls from unknown numbers or for businesses that as their nature must answer all calls to simply hang up, not engage, and report the call using the FCC or FTC complaint system. 
 
The idea of just hanging up is not the most satisfying solution for most and we're generally polite people, so what other tools might be helpful in addressing these types of calls? One idea that has been spreading is number verification which provides real-time detailed info on inbound calls. The idea is that the call’s ID is checked against a database that stores info on SPAM, robocalls, and known scam calls. The call is then ranked and the rating is displayed with its Caller ID. A call with a high score would indicate high confidence the number is not spam or risky. A call with a low score suggests the opposite leaving answering the call to the discretion of the recipient. This method gives businesses more info allowing them to answer calls with more confidence, or allowing a user to potentially set rules that automatically reject high-risk rated calls or send them directly to voicemail for later review.
 
Finding solutions to the problem of robocalls, spam, and telephone-based scams is not easy. It is perhaps the most significant issue facing the telecommunications sector today along with call fraud. The scale of this problem lead the FCC to begin working with companies that make up the backbone of the worldwide telecommunications network in 2016.  This lead to the creation of the Robocall Strike Force to foster cooperation between providers, and generate ideas and solutions to this issue. While the RSF works on solutions and ways of addressing the cause, NocTel will continue to review their ideas and implement solutions that benefit our users.
What is Spoofing?

Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies their Caller ID information to disguise their identity. Spoofing is illegal when it is done with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. A spoofed number can be a legitimate number to convince the call recipient to answer - seeing a Caller ID for something generic like "Tech Spt Svcs" is more believable than an otherwise random number. However, it can be used legitimately, such as a doctor using it to reach victims of domestic abuse for discreet contact.
Calls of a threatening nature?

If you receive calls of a threatening nature against your person or business, please contact your local emergency services to report them and get assistance. Be prepared to give a detailed report of the call  including your number, caller's ID, caller's sex/gender, nature of the threat, and any other pertinent details. Being thorough with your report can be a significant help in identifying patterns or motive to authorities, and lead to the faster apprehending of the perpetrator. 
User Feedback on Robocall Solutions
We are always open to user feedback, and we would like yours on this issue! We have created a survey we'd appreciate you to take part in it to help understand what users think would work best for tackling the problem with robocall and SPAM calls discussed at length in this newsletter. 






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NocTel Communications, Inc. · 3242 NE 3rd Ave # 230 · Camas, WA 98607-2408 · USA

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