AT&T, Sprint and Verizon and nine other telecommunications companies teamed up with attorneys general of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia to announce a new pact to eradicate a common scourge in America: illegal robocalls.
The agreement, which amounts to a set of anti-robocall principles, is aimed at combating and preventing the phone-ringing annoyance. Included in the deal is call-blocking technology that will be integrated into a dozen phone networks’ existing infrastructure, at no additional charge to customers.
The tech giants will also provide other call blocking and call labeling for those customers who want more screening tools.
“We owe it to the most vulnerable in our communities to do everything in our power to protect them,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said at an announcement in Washington on Thursday.
“Thanks to these prevention principles, our phones will ring less often.”
Stein and other attorneys general who spoke at the press conference said that while robocalls regularly present hassles and interruptions for millions of Americans, in some instances, the calls can also be harmful.
“Robocalls are also a very effective device for illegal conduct,” said New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.
He added that robocallers prey on unsuspecting people. Once valuable personal and financial information is divulged, those duped individuals are at risk of losing “their savings, their identity and their security.”
To get people to answer the phone, MacDonald said about 40 percent of the scammers resort to a tactic known as the “neighbor spoofing technique.” That’s where bilkers mask who they are by placing calls using the same area code and first three digits of their potential victim.
Under the plan, service providers will help provide technology, known to industry insiders as SHAKEN/STIR, to combat that practice and aid state attorney generals in locating and prosecuting the fraudulent robocallers.
The Federal Communications Commission describes the technology as allowing a phone network receiving a call to verify that it comes from the number it purports to before it reaches the customer.