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Communications Spam

Phone Companies Get New Tools To Block Spam Calls (cnbc.com) 129

An anonymous reader shares a report: Phone companies will have greater authority to block questionable calls from reaching customers as regulators adopted new rules to combat automated messages known as robocalls. Rules adopted Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission represent the latest tools against "robocalls," which pester consumers, sometimes multiple times each day, and often push scams. Phone companies can already block some calls that trick consumers by showing up on Caller ID with fake numbers. The new rules make clear that they can block additional calls that are likely scams, such as numbers that start with a 911 area code, or one that isn't currently assigned to anyone.
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Phone Companies Get New Tools To Block Spam Calls

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  • by OffTheLip ( 636691 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @11:59AM (#55563417)
    is when the calling number is mine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by olsmeister ( 1488789 )
      I haven't seen that one, but I have seen a huge increase in robocallers spoofing local numbers because I'm much more likely to answer one of those calls.
    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:09PM (#55563523) Homepage Journal

      Are political calls still exempt from the rules?

      My favorite is the one offering between $5000 and $7000 for any women willing to make damaging accusations about Roy Moore [wkrg.com]

      I hate all robocalls, including political ones, and don't see why they should be exempt from the rules.

      Also: Don't we hate the FCC because of the net neutrality thing? Has that changed?

      • So... bribes to defame? Isn't that like twice illegal? Why does that shit exists?

        • So... bribes to defame? Isn't that like twice illegal? Why does that shit exists?

          Since a special exception to the Fourth Amendment requires men to resign on accusation of harassment, bribery is as good a tool as any to knock out any politician you don't like.

          The latest to get hit is Al Franken.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          In this case, it is likely supporters of Moore making the calls in order to discredit the well corroborated accusations that he has a history of perving on teenage girls.

      • by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:20PM (#55563653)

        Except that's not a political call, that's just fraud. Better news reports said the contact information was invalid, and there's no such person working for the claimed newspaper. It was simply someone trying to stir up opposition to the newspaper.

        • Well on the face you can tell it's fraudulent

          Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein, I’m a reporter for the Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5000 and $7000 dollars. We will not be fully investigating these claims however we will make a written report. I can be reached by email at albernstein@washingtonpost.com, thank you

          Bernie Bernstein? To me that sounds like a fake name like "McLovin". Also no newspaper offers "a reward" like that.

          The caller might have well offered a million dollars of his Nigerian inheritance if the recipient would divulge his bank account information.

          • by Burdell ( 228580 )

            Unfortunately, many of the people of the fine state of Alabama (of which I am a life-long resident, being more embarrassed every day by the Alabamification of US politics) are blithering idiots and would eat up a conservative talk-radio host announcing the WaPo was soliciting uninvestigated comments for cash as just more proof that the whole thing was fake news.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The robocall in question is most likely "damage control" by Moore's supporters, in order to discredit the source of information. "Washington Post is bribing women to come forward!" would be a good story to have for why everyone should still vote for Moore.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Are political calls still exempt from the rules?

        The new rules allow blocking based on technicalities — such as claiming to be from a number that does not exist.

        As long as you provide a real number — such as that of a political campaign's office — you are in the clear. And should be...

        I hate all robocalls

        I do too. But I do not know, how to ban them without violating the First Amendment...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The first amendment does not require me to listen to all political speech, as courts have ruled. In fact, courts have ruled we have the right not to have someone else's opinion forced on us.

          The exemption of robocalls for politcal reasons is allowing political types to impose their views on others - which violates the first amendment.

          • by mi ( 197448 )

            The first amendment does not require me to listen to all political speech

            That's correct, but it only allows you to hang-up (or press "Delete", if the speech arrives by e-mail). You still can not keep them from continuing to try to get your attention — unless the attempts raise to the level of harassment. At least, I do not see, how...

      • You know that was a hoax right? Those idiots in Alabama are stupid enough to think that's how real journalism works. Of course they also believe the Orange Shitgibbon in Chief when he says the Gray Lady is "fake news."
    • I actually spent time complaining to Verizon (and then had my office manager spend more time) about it, and the fact that they don't do squat now makes me question if they actually want to do anything.

      It makes a cell phone useless.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I actually spent time complaining to Verizon (and then had my office manager spend more time) about it, and the fact that they don't do squat now makes me question if they actually want to do anything.

        It makes a cell phone useless.

        Oh, they'll "do something" when they decide how much extra to charge you for it per month.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      I've seen a few in recent months that spoof my exchange number. It's a big red flag, because in a big city, knowing someone with the same exchange (which used to matter back in the step switch days) is really unlikely. But I can't block on that. If pretending to be my own number becomes a problem, at least I can block that one, but it hasn't been.

      I had also over the past few years seen malformed numbers, and numbers from an obvious dial-out bank all in the form of ABC-DEF-GHxx where xx was different, but i

  • Oh Darn (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I love being able to troll these guys. I always ask to speak to a live person and then have as much fun trolling them as possible. For those who say "they are only doing their jobs" the same can be said about organized crime, military officers for repressive governments etc...They called me to waste my time and I will have as much fun as possible with it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't waste your time. Send them to Lenny. You will still get to have fun. :D

    • I have a listed land line number that I have kept over the years as part of a custody arrangement and it gets at least two spam calls every day sometimes as many as five or six.

      I transfered someone that claimed to be with Microsoft Support to the real Microsoft Support number once.

  • by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:07PM (#55563505) Journal
    My household makes use of a VOIP system as well as cell phones for telephony. We can pay extra for the VOIP system to block calls from numbers we identify as SCAM and ROBO calls, but that can be pretty useless since the SCAMers have hacked the caller ID system to switch ID at will. The same can occur for mobile callers. Unless technology can identify the bad guys directly and block them at their source, the problem will still exist.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My household makes use of a VOIP system as well as cell phones for telephony. We can pay extra for the VOIP system to block calls from numbers we identify as SCAM and ROBO calls, but that can be pretty useless since the SCAMers have hacked the caller ID system to switch ID at will. The same can occur for mobile callers. Unless technology can identify the bad guys directly and block them at their source, the problem will still exist.

      Let's just be clear here, the scammers haven't hacked anything. Using a SIP/RTP provider it is an explicitly supported feature to set your outbound caller-id, no "hacking" required.

    • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:56PM (#55564003)

      AKA, the carrier's are complicit in the problem.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Level 3 is one of the worst. 99% of calls I get originating from their network are fucking scam calls.

        And they'll do nothing about it because it makes them gobs of money.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.jollyrogertelco.com/ [jollyrogertelco.com]

    Some of the recordings are hilarious when the telemarketers start losing their shit.

  • Still have a landline and am tempted to get a call blocker. There is one that is whitelist and blacklist capable.
    Whitelist- goes right through
    Blacklist - hangs up
    In between gets a message to hit 0 and leave a message. Don't hit it and you get hung up on
    Robocalls can't hit 0 so they get hung up on.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "Robocalls can't hit 0 so they get hung up on."

      Please, we've got audio recognition down pat, now days. Listen for "press number" and then press that number is trivial for a program.

      • by rikkards ( 98006 )

        Cool so then you go to voice mail, which at some point I will probably listen to (most likely when I get an email from someone saying "Hey why didn't you return my call")

  • by dominator ( 61418 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:19PM (#55563641) Homepage

    I'm using Google Project Fi for my carrier, and they're identifying about 80-90% of robocalls correctly as SPAM. The phone still rings, but the phone's screen turns red and says "Suspected SPAM caller". They also give you an easy way to report calls as SPAM from within the phone app.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That isn't Google fi, it's software on the phone. It shows the same thing on a Pixel connected to Verizon.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:22PM (#55563677)
    The real question is, when will the phone companies let me block them?

    My problems began about a year ago when I started getting a bunch of wrong number calls from people asking (in Spanish) for Manuel. My guess is someone didn't memorize their new phone number correctly and was giving out my number instead. I managed to get most of those sorted out eventually. Although one little old lady (I picked out "abuela" in what she was saying) kept hanging up and calling again, thinking she was continuously dialing the number wrong.

    But then the robocalls began. Most of them in Spanish, but a few English. Mind you, I've had this number for almost 20 years with only a handful of spam calls each year. But my guess is the person also used my number when signing up for things, because I started getting 5-10 robocalls a day. The phone company was absolutely useless at helping me block them. The only way I survived was because Google's phone app tells you if a number is a suspected spam caller, and I just let it go to voicemail (they always leave a 5 second empty voicemail).

    Does anyone know of an app which generates the "number has been disconnected [youtube.com]" tones in response to an incoming phone call? I'm reluctant to change my voicemail to that because I do occasionally get real voicemails.
    • I use an app call "Should I Answer?". It allows blacklisting, community blacklisting, whitelisting and many more features including allowing offline reviews.
    • Oh Sorry abuela Manuel is not with us anymore.... please let others know... that would had stopped the calls right away...
    • Does anyone know of an app which generates the "number has been disconnected [youtube.com]" tones in response to an incoming phone call?

      Google "ic sit tone" and go to the Wikipedia hit. Download the wav file, put it in your mobile device, record your new greeting, play the wav file over speaker, speak your greeting. Spam calls have drastically dropped off.

      I'm reluctant to change my voicemail to that because I do occasionally get real voicemails.

      Nah, my friends and others still leave messages once they h

  • Cmon, wtf was that article? It was like 2 lines of journalism written on a piece of toilet paper.

    I'd like to see a good explanation of why the FCC and phone companies have not been more proactive in requiring some kind of hard-registration of entities to be able to produce their own caller ID, and nip this problem in the bud. Or some more effective way for consumers to report and identify these serial spammers.

    The amount of experimentation by the bad guys is way outpacing the response. The innovati
  • This article does not clarify if it can handle the big problems of a computer sourced call. A computer call can generate about 20 numbers. You are limited to blocking 10... PHONES have to catch up with larger spam.
  • But what if my car's extended warranty really is expiring?
    • by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @12:43PM (#55563867) Homepage

      I used to get these all the time, until I decided to play along once. I told the guy that I no longer owned the car in question, but if he would be interested in selling me warranty for my new car....a Bugatti Veyron SuperSport. He said "I can't find that in my system, is it Italian". I directed him to check it out on Google, and he hung up and never called back. Shame too, because I was hoping the extended warranty would cover the $30,000 tires.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1. Nobody gets through, unless they're in one of my address books.
    2. If I want you to contact me, I add you by adding your contact details to my phone. I tell you that you can contacte only with the numbers/addresses you give me.
    3. If I run a business, the first contact goes through a form, which can put you in an address book. (Kept confidential, of course.)
    4. I have a communication firewall on my home server, that only lets through calls, e-mails, IM messages etc, if they are in the right adress books. (O

  • Got fed up with robocalls, and since you can't block them due to spoofed caller ID, I set all my contacts to an audible ringtone and made my default ringtone a single "ding".

    Now, unknown callers ring with a single "ding" and people on my contacts list ring with a normal ringtone.

    Not perfect, but workable. It would be welcome, though, to see some action on the part of the telcos or the FCC/FTC in regards to the blatant ignoring of the DoNotCall list...

  • I literally had a spoofed number come in that had an exchange of "555." Something tells me that there's no legitimate reason to allow such numbers through. I'm not a movie.
    • by rbet ( 5159081 )
      Contrary to popular belief the 555 exchange is a valid exchange in many area codes.
  • Robo-calls could be solved using 80s technology but never has been because not only is there no incentive to do it but they are paid to allow it to happen. How hard is it to create a network that actually verifies if the sender is giving the correct number? Forget global issues, the problem still exists inside the USA which is the most litigious nation! A simple contract between networks could ensure that allowed fraud would result in financial damages.

    Think about this: we don't have this problem with co

    • How hard is it to create a network that actually verifies if the sender is giving the correct number?

      Very. What is "the correct number"? How do you ask a telco in Romania what the "correct number" for a call is? I have a cell phone that I use while on the road for my company, but I want all returned calls to go to my receptionist who I pay to answer stuff. Tell me how my landline at my office is not the "correct number" to use in caller id when I make a cell phone call.

      But all I have to do is tell people to call me back at the landline number and the problem is solved, right? Don't be stupid. I have a mo

      • Way to obfuscate the argument and conflate points! Well done, Obfuscant.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Your objections are non-problems. Your cell provider should simply ask you to verify the number you present in caller ID as belonging to you. It should be penalized if it doesn't. If a call originates outside the U.S. jurisdiction, the caller ID should at least be plausible (that is, block it if it claims to originate in the U.S.).

        • Your objections are non-problems. Your cell provider should simply ask you to verify the number you present in caller ID as belonging to you.

          You have no idea of the problem, do you? The problem of fraudulent caller ID data is not cell users. Not even close. It has nothing to do with cell providers. I don't have to verify the number they send in caller ID as mine, because THEY ASSIGNED ME THAT NUMBER. I got it from them. And I don't "present" it, they do. Sheesh.

          If you think that the "Microsoft Support" caller with the Indian accent, or the "$250,000 small business loan", or the "credit card debt reduction", or the "free vacation cruise" caller

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            Are tou really this God damned stupid? All caller ID have to be either sanity checked or egress filtered or none. Otherwise the scams will continue. If, as you suggest, your cellular provider presents anything but your cell number as a caller ID (as you seem to claim), then it needs to be validated. Possibly by looking in their own database (if your POTS comes from the same provider) or by checking with your POTS provider. You started the example of a cellphone, so I continued with it. If you like, substit

  • >Phone companies can already block some calls that trick consumers by showing up on Caller ID with fake numbers.

    If they can, why don't they?

    The current trick seems to be to make a fake ID with my local area code. It obviously fake, the phone company knows it's fake because the area code doesn't match the source and TFS tells me they can block them. So why don't they? I get them every day.
     

    • It obviously fake, the phone company knows it's fake because the area code doesn't match the source and TFS tells me they can block them. So why don't they?

      Because it might be a valid call. And you haven't told them to.

      I take my car to a local dealer for service. They hire a company to do an after-visit followup to survey my satisfaction. This is an existing commercial relationship which gets them around the DNC list. The company they hire can be anywhere on the planet, the caller ID they send is the number of the dealer. They do that so even if I don't answer the call, I know that the dealer is trying to contact me. They care.

      What is actually a problem is t

      • >Because it might be a valid call. And you haven't told them to.

        So TFS is wrong. If they can't tell the difference, then they can't block calls with counterfeit IDs. TFS says they can. So it's the usual incompetently made claims by journalists who can't be bothered to understand what is going on.

        • So TFS is wrong. If they can't tell the difference, then they can't block calls with counterfeit IDs.

          Well, TFS talks about caller ID numbers for numbers that are not currently in use or using certain area codes. Yes, they can detect those, and they could block those. That assumes there is a system created whereby your local telco (who sends you the caller ID info and rings your phone) can quickly query the validity of the number provided to it. That's a tall assumption.

          But what you claimed was "the phone company knows it's fake because the area code doesn't match the source". That's not true. I gave you

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        So only allow it if the dealer has registered the call originator.

        • So only allow it if the dealer has registered the call originator.

          The car dealer isn't a phone company. They can't "register" the survey company. There is no system for them to tell all the phone companies in the world that someone in Arkansas, for example, is authorized to use their incoming number for caller ID. It just doesn't exist.

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            Of course they can, with the calling party's U.S. phone provider who could then check it with the dealer's phone provider. Don't be daft.

            Decent ISPs manage the analogous checking of BGP and source IP addresses all the time even in the absence of regulations. Since the phone companies don't do it voluntarily, regulation it is.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I initially read that, I immediately thought of Ajit Pai for some reason.

  • Is there a consumer-level PBX system or cheap service that can be used for mobile phones?
    "Press 5 if you're a human".
    (caller presses 1)
    "Press or say my PIN/codeword to speak directly to me or wait to leave a message".
    (after caller says it correctly, then my phone will ring).

    I'd consider using that if it's cheap. It's irritating to be using my smartphone and have an unknown call come in, interrupting whatever I'm trying to do, or have it BLAST the ringing through my car speakers (connected via bluetooth), w

  • Then afterwards block the number.

    If it is local and not tagged "scam likely" I wait til I hear their voice to be sure then I set it down.

    I really need a way to send all "scam likely" calls straight to bounce land. Or better an automated service that says "hello" to consume their time.

    I finally had to turn my phone off when I go to sleep at night because scam calls were costing me sleep.

    We need to get better end to end security on phones entering the united states. A call coming from outside of the countr

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      A call coming from outside of the country clearly can't be originating from a u.s. area code.

      So what happens if it's on VoIP coming from the US-end of a VPN connection from India?

      • A call coming from outside of the country clearly can't be originating from a u.s. area code.

        So what happens if it's on VoIP coming from the US-end of a VPN connection from India?

        And that assumes that "caller ID" is supposed to show you the "number of origination" and not the "identification of the caller". Caller ID is intended for the latter, so the country of origin is really irrelevant. E.g., a callback from a corporate support center located in India should identify with the called ID of "that company name" and the toll-free US number for that support center.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          So let the corporation set up a reflector for that. But most of the time, call centers are taking inbound calls.

          • So let the corporation set up a reflector for that.

            The "corporation" doesn't need to do that. There's already a system in place to deal with providing correct caller ID information -- which once again I will tell you is NOT "calling country id".

            But most of the time, call centers are taking inbound calls.

            The first thing Dell, e.g., asks me for when I call them for support is a number they can call me back at if the connection is lost. Comcast does the same thing. Lots of call centers do that, so they can recover a contact without forcing the customer to call back in and get someone else at random. The same person I'

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              I have Comcast and have NEVER been asked for a callback number from tier 1 support. Only once I was asked by tier 2 support but that was a U.S. call center. Also, being asked for a callback number doesn't say much about the volume of actual outbound calls. Essentially, the volume of outbound calls wouldn't be terribly taxing on a reflector. Not sure why you find that non sequitur.

              It wound be necessary to filter based on country of origin not matching caller ID to keep scammers from just going somewhere whe

  • The people pulling or profiting from the "You owe the IRS money", "Your computer has a virus", and other assorted scams, all of them, need to go to jail, full stop. If the calls are originating in another country, then the US govt. needs to cooperate with the police in that country to make arrests happen. The US and India cooperated last year in shutting down one such scam center, so it's possible to do this.

    If companies are attempting to sell legitimate goods and services but are violating the Do Not Cal

  • ... I've begun just blocking calls from anything not explicitly saved in my address book. Same-exchange CID spoofing has gotten out of hand.
  • Google solved my email SPAM problem years ago and now I never get unwanted emails. No regulations were involved, which is why it worked so well.

    For phone calls, we get the Do Not Call Registry which was an utter failure and cost who knows how much money, and now we get more regulations that might help out. But as of today I get 100 times more spam phone calls than spam email.

    Thanks FCC.

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