You know what everyone hates? Robocalls. AT&T, Apple, Google, Verizon, and Comcast are joining together to create the “Robocall Strike Force” which will work with the FCC to eliminate the annoyance. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will lead the effort.
A robocall is a phone call with a prerecorded message, and are often used to defraud people. Time Warner Cable was actually forced to pay $230,000 USD in July 2015 for robocalling one woman 153 times. One of the worst cases of fraud is when people fall for a robocall claiming it is from the IRS. This practice is so prevalent that the IRS has a special webpage setup warning against this deception. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration noted that it has received 736,000 scam contacts since October 2013. In that time, over 4,500 victims have collectively paid over $23 million to scammers.
The group will hopefully develop Caller ID that will aid in blocking calls from spoofed numbers. They are also aiming to create a “Do Not Originate” list that would prevent spoofers from stealing phone numbers from significant institutions like the government and banks. Stephenson noted that the aim was to create “concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions”.
The FCC does not require, but strongly encourages, phone providers to offer robocall blocking. There are many perfecting legal but annoying calls, like telemarketing and public opinion surveys, but there are also millions of completely illegal phone calls. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has argued that the illegal calls persist mostly due to inaction from major telephone companies.
The Robocall Strike Force meets today, August 19th, and will meet again in October. Other companies in the group include Blackberry, British Telecommunications Plc., Charter Communications, Frontier Communications, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sirius XM, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular.