We all know the irritation of seeing our phones light up with a number we don't recognize - more often than not it's a spam call promising that we've won an exciting vacation or that the IRS is hunting us down. Sadly, little progress has been made to stem the flow of these scams and they must be working because the spammers keep at it. These calls, often coined "robocalls" due to the tech used to automatically dial numbers, sadly numbered over 5.1 billion in November 2018. This is the highest number ever recorded and is up from 2.9 billion at the beginning of this year.
Why is it? Analysts suspect that it has much to do with the FCC's removal of an Obama-era autodialers that they felt was too broad. However, at the same time they are holding robocallers accountable for their activity. Others are looking for new tactics to end the disruptive calls. Google CEO Ajit Pai implored cellular providers to develop methods to end caller ID spoofing (a method in which a robocaller disguises their number as one local to you).
While this will likely be an ongoing battle, more and more tools are becoming available to help consumers to more readily identify which calls are spam before even answering. Many new phones cross reference internet phone records when a call comes in, and if there's a match to a listing will display the name. This is helpful for numbers that you don't receive calls from often (say, your auto mechanic), but are valid business. More and more mobile operating systems are now allowing users to mark calls as spam, which not only blocks the number on that phone, but reports the number as abusive to network directories and blocks those calls to other numbers on the carrier. Google also recently deployed a call screening feature to their Pixel line of phones that allows users to have the screening service ask the caller questions - all without personally answering.
While these tactics are merely a bandaid to the annoyance of spam calls, they are certainly a helpful feature while real solutions are developed to end robocalls for good.
This article was based on a May 7, 2018 Business Insider article by Prachi Bhardwaj and Paige Leskin