AT&T CEO Enlists Elite Strike Force To Carpet Bomb Scamming Robocallers

The Federal Communications Commission pointed its finger at the telecommunications industry over the weekend and asked for decisive action to be taken against the growing problem of robocalls, a move that prompted AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to respond by spearheading a new Robocalling Strike Force. Sounds intimidating, doesn't it?

AT&T says the Strike Force's mission will be to "accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions to abate the proliferation of robocoalls and to make recommendations to the FCC on the role government can play in this battle." It almost sounds like a declaration of war. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler probably didn't have this kind of rhetoric in mind when it called upon telecoms to work together to solve the problem of robocalling, but he's fine with AT&T's war call.

Angry Phone

"I am gratified that AT&T will lead an industry strike force to develop an action plan for providing consumers with robust robocall-blocking solutions," Wheeler said. "Last week, I asked all the major phone companies to develop just such a plan; I strongly urge industry participants to join the effort and to produce conclusions within 60 days."

A robocall is a phone call with a prerecorded message. They're not just annoying and unwanted, but illegal and often used to defraud people. One example is a receiving a call with a prerecorded message claiming the IRS is about to take legal action against you unless you pay a tax bill. They'll leave a number for you to call to arrange payment.

The IRS has a special webpage setup warning against this very thing. People fall for this sort of thing all the time—the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) says it received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts since October 2013. In that time, over 4,500 victims have collectively paid over $23 million to scammers.

There are certain measures you can take against robocalling, such as blocking phone numbers. But that alone doesn't solve the problem. The onus is on telecoms to truly thwart robocalling through more sophisticated measures, and that's what AT&T hopes to accomplish with its Strike Force.