Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
FCC threatens carriers with 'regulatory intervention' over robocalls (thehill.com)
382 points by jmsflknr 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 254 comments



Particularly sucks for me because I'm on a kidney transplant list so may get a call any time of a potential match and they didn't specific which number will call me. So basically I end up answering all these unknown number robocalls in case I miss one of these matches.


I'm so sorry, but that's seriously the ultimate tease. Every phone call is a "MAYBE ITS MY NEW KIDNEY?!" and instead you're greated with "Your cars EXTENDED WARRANTY is about to expire, please press 1 now to speak to a representative about your cars EXTENDED WARRANTY"


To be honest, I still have a couple years wait on the kidney but there is a non-zero change of a perfect match that gets to the head of the line. And I certainly don't want to miss that.

I do have a trick in dealing with the calls though. I answer the line but say nothing. Humans will always say something if there is silence for a while. Robocalls will just hang up. And I notice if they hangup, the chance of future calls are lower.


> To be honest, I still have a couple years wait on the kidney but there is a non-zero change of a perfect match that gets to the head of the line. And I certainly don't want to miss that.

I got curious, and scanned https://www.organdonor.gov/ to see how one gets notified when an organ is available. I didn't see any information after a few minutes of poking around the site.

When a kidney does become available, what is the process by which you'd be notified? Do they make one phone call, and if you don't pick up, they call the next person on the list? Do they broadcast a message to you & everyone you know via every possible telecommunications & social media channel you've provided, and then give you N minutes to reply with "hey, I'm on my way to the hospital now!"


there's no way they'll give up after a single phone call. but the transplant team and the person potentially receiving the transplant only have one hour to respond to a notification of an available organ before UNOS moves on to the next person down the list. edit: mind you, this is not a straightforward yes/no - the transplant center needs to make sure that this particular organ donation will work at that particular time etc. - so there's a lot of factors involved.

my stupidest (but i guess not entirely invalid) fear is that i'm listed as the primary contact for my dad in need of a kidney, and i basically can't go to any shows using yondr or any similar situation where i won't be near my phone for a while. or at least make sure that other people that will be contacted too know that i will not be available to pick up.

edit: i guess i didn't answer the specific question though! at least the center where my dad is listed - they have a bunch of contact numbers for us and i have their numbers in my address book plus a request on my voicemail msg to call me twice to bypass DND if necessary. and my dad's renal case manager knows to text/email/call me too and her direct numbers are whitelisted in my phone, always. the 1 hour limit means we (the patient/family) will have less than 1 hour to respond.

i also do believe that the center that gets the notification from UNOS also gets pinged if UNOS don't hear back at all whatsoever (like, a confirmation of the notification at minimum) within 10-15 minutes of the original notification. something like that. basically there's not really a situation where a single missed call will make or break it (unless literally someone is unreachable for the whole time.)


Will they leave a message? If you use something like Google Voice as your number, their voicemail will be transcribed into a text message so you can call them back within minutes, or if they can't leave a call back number, you can at least be ready for them to call you back.

By answering the phone, you're going to get even more spam calls since your number is identified as a live number.

Or you could try the call screening like what Google offers on the Pixel (and there must be other phones/apps that can do the same).

https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/google-call-screening-h...


I'm not the original transplant commenter if that was your intent :) I already know the numbers to expect calls from (and area codes, at minimum - which significantly narrows it down) and there's no way I'd waste my time answering anywhere from 2 to 10 spam calls a day for also being in a boat where we're years out at best. Definitely would let it go to voicemail - legit calls almost always do leave one or call back immediately - and a couple minutes usually won't be a dealbreaker.


I'm gonna track down some people who can comment on how organ availability actually works. Who knows. Maybe there's a solution that could be wired up so you can go see a movie without worrying about whether or not a kidney suddenly becomes available.


the solution is my watch is always on and buzzes for calls :) and the center has a lot of different people to contact that can contact each other. (we have a little geographic redundancy here.)

but the reality of this is that, if you're on a transplant list, you basically won't be doing any significant/major travel or be unreachable for long periods of time.

i will say though, this depends on the organ i imagine. i think 1 hour is standard across the board, but lists/priority and other things change dramatically depending on which organ you need - kidneys are viable for longer than hearts, etc.

UNOS/OPTN is where you want to look for information on organ distribution - https://unos.org/transplantation/faqs/ "How does the matching process work?" and https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/learn/about-transplantation...


For hearts you only get one call and a few minutes to decide whether you are ready. If you don't pick up they go straight to the next person. My friend used a basic Nokia phone with a heart-wrenching message on it to prevent theft. (I'm not in the US)


Call the FCC had have the jammers ripped out


> yondr

This is the first time I've seen this and I'm appalled. What business is it of the performer whether you look at your phone? Who's paying whom? Also, wouldn't anybody trying to make an unauthorized recording just bring a decoy phone?

And since we're talking about being reachable, what about that issue? If I'm on call for work and I find that I'm required to put my phone into one of those things, I'm going to be super pissed off, because I'm going to have to go home and figure out how to get a refund. How many people have actually died because someone who's suicidal or overdosing or something couldn't contact a particular loved one in one of these phone-free spaces?

I guess this kind of thing could be cute as like a performance art thing but the company trying to push this for use at concerts and comedy shows is just cancer.


What I know is this. For each donor organ, they rank everyone one on multiple factors including compatibility, time on list, age, location, etc. Then they call up the first individual on the list and see if they are interested. If they don't get a confirmation in some time, they go to the next individual down the list.

I know of one individual who didn't reply soon enough and missed out. The next match they got was 2 years down the line but it was a very good match.

Edit: I think they do call up a couple people on the top of the list but the highest priority that calls in the time allotted will get it. Again this is still a mystery to me since I'm only half way through my wait time on list so no inquiries up to now.


From experience in the UK you give them a list of all your contact numbers and they call those in order - your meant to tell them if your out of the country

When you get the call from the doctor on duty you discuss if your going for it or not - note they normally call two candidates and you both get to the designated hospital for final tests best match gets the kidney.


I read somewhere that the purpose of some subset of robocalls is to simply listen for an answer to determine whether a human operator has been found.


We have a robo dialer that tries to deterimine whether there's a live (human) or recorded voice (I say try, because it's not as easy to determine as you might think), and if it thinks it's a live voice it will play a message that it's going to transfer and transfer to a live agent, otherwise it plays a message intended for voice mail.

The main reason we have this is to lighten the load of agents manually dialing phones and wasting time on getting answering machines, fax lines, disconnected numbers, etc, which costs the business money and makes it harder to reach the coverage required by our clients by a certain date.

But like I said, it's not perfect, and we are currently fighting an issue where not enough disconnected numbers are being identified as such by the carriers and our agents are having to spend a lot of time manually verifying that they are disconnected numbers.

We don't make an attempt to spoof anything, though. These are calls done on behalf of companies that have active business with you (i.e. you got a new insurance policy and the insurance company wants to ask you some follow-up questions, etc).


> We don't make an attempt to spoof anything, though.

How do your agents identify themselves?

What phone number shows up on caller id? Yours or the client's?


The script is specific to the client and campaign. They usually begin with some variation on "I am calling on behalf of <client> regarding <whatever topic the client is wanting us to talk about>."

It comes up as our phone numbers. If it came up as our clients that would require spoofing.


That sounds honest and reasonable.


Yeah, if we were doing something really shady, I don't think I would be able to justify staying here as long as I have, personally.

It's not the most rewarding job I've ever had, but it is the most high profile. I wouldn't imagine having so much of an effect on the business of multiple Fortune 100 clients just a few years ago.


I'm fairly convinced of that, a couple times I "press one to speak with a sales representative" and it immediately hung up on me. Or "press three to be removed from the call list" and the volume of spam calls drastically increases.

I actually just finished a couple weeks of zero spam calls and it was wonderful...if not a bit on the lonely side


I foolishly tried out the new google call screening thing, and I'm also think it increased the number of spam calls I get per day because any answer means someone is there.


It hasn’t worked poorly for me. Call volume down and I just let stuff go to voicemail most of the time.


Yea, probably not a solution for the OP comment you are ultimately replying under.. (assuming you read it)


It's irresponsible on the part of the people in the kidney donor system, in addition to the general lowlife-ness of robocall firms. I like the idea that any money confiscated from the latter (ie all of it) should be used to set up more user-friendly systems for the former.


Put in something that will say if you're calling about a kidney press 1 and then it rings.


There's a service Google provides that requires a caller to state their name before it connects you. I've encountered it when calling doctors direct after hours. It seems like it'd be effective at blocking robocalls. Maybe look into that?


What is this service called? I desperately need it, I get about 10 robocalls per day.



Why does this service 'require' google? I see no reason why this could not be implemented entirely on the device rather than in the cloud/on someone else's computer.


It doesn't require Google. It's a service offered by Google that requires the caller to identify themselves. It could be done by anyone, but probably easiest if you have a VoIP line handling the initial call and then redirecting the incoming call to your primary number if the caller is verified (like Google voice). I've only seen this on Google Voice, but I'm sure it's a common enough solution.


The Google version is implemented on the device.

From the link someone gave in a nearby comment: "Call Screen’s on-device speech recognition lets you see a real-time transcript of what the caller is asked and how they respond." (https://support.google.com/phoneapp/answer/9094888)


Google's phone screen feature has been nice for this. Press a button to screen incoming calls you don't recognize, so far 100% hang up by the end of the message.

Now I only wish it were the default behavior so I don't even have to press the button.


In the UK I considered getting a second cheap feature phone mobile with a long battery life when I was on the list.

We had to take the call screening off the landline as it was potentially stopping calls.


>Particularly sucks for me because I'm on a kidney transplant list so may get a call any time of a potential match and they didn't specific which number will call me.

Do these robocalls harass pagers?

I had a friend in the 90s who was waiting on an organ, his mother carried a pager in case it came in. I don't recall it ever going off even though it was back when telemarketing was arguably as rampant as robocalls are now.


This could be solved quite easily by them sending an email, and then you configuring your email filter to recognize their message and sound an alarm.

Can't you contact them on a professional basis (not as a patient), and offer them suggestions on how to fix this and make this better for everyone involved?


Would they not leave a voicemail for something as pressing as a kidney transplant? The vast majority of these calls don't go to my voicemail, and the two a month that do are easily picked up by voicemail transcription.


FOMO. Its not like a job offer. I don't want to be playing phone tag on voicemail. I know someone who missed out and had to wait another 2 years for a match.


If you need a kidney, would you count on them leaving a voicemail?


On ththe other hand why use such a broken system for something that is literally life and death? I don’t willingly use phone calls for anything important and will be happy when they’re relegated to being a goofy fun old-fashioned thing like postcards, never used for serious business.


> On ththe other hand why use such a broken system for something that is literally life and death?

What other synchronous mode of communication is more reliable than a phone call for this use case?


This is off topic but hope you are well, stranger and friend. Good luck.


so there could be hackers that spam calls to the people ahead of someone in an organ donor list? this seems like a very bad system


have your tried using apps like nomorobo or trucaller?


On VOIP landlines with nomorobo, one ring means a sad day for another scammer. :D And it's free.

Haven't tried the paid mobile version, has anyone tried it?


Good + heavy $$$ punishments. My father had heart attack few weeks ago and my brother refused to pickup a call, because he was thinking that it was a robocall. It was a call from hospital in VA, they a left voicemail.


At this point, if it's a phone number not in my contacts I'm letting it go to voicemail. The problem is that I'm getting desensitized to voicemails. After hearing "...Blue cross, Aetna, blah blah" health insurance spam voicemails 5x a day I guess anyone would just start deleting them without checking. It's infuriating.

Also, hope your father is doing alright!


I also let non-contacts go to voicemail, but my experience is different — I find that almost no unsolicited calls leave voicemails. Also, I use the Google Voice transcription, which is at least good enough to let me know if it's interesting or spam. Sometimes even good enough I don't need to listen to the recording.


If they had to press a key, they'd not leave any, ever. As of right now, the voicemails are the robospiel with the first 30 seconds cut off. They start the tape the moment your voicemail picks up, and by the time it gets to the beep, their message is already half through.


I find the same. <transcript not available> => mark as spam. Google Fi?


That’s exactly the ones I’ve been getting for over a year, sometimes 4+ times per day! Once I answered and told the guy I reported them to the FCC and he changed from energetically polite to boiler room sinister and he told me,

“I hope your entire family gets cancer and dies.”

It’s difficult to screen them before they vary the area code so much. Seems like my report through the FCC form of several numbers used should give the feds teeth to track them down since even if they’re using an API like Twilio, I’d expect a carrier would be required by regulators to track all number usage back to somebody.


I also stopped really checking voicemails... I stopped checking voicemails, as only people who call and leave voicemail are not the people who I communicate everyday. People in my life know to text/chat/email if they need to get through to me right away. And I do the same. I never leave voicemail in people's inboxes...


Exactly. I got 7 spam calls today. Each one left a voicemail. I can't keep up with that.


Voicemail is the 21st century Turing test. Once robocalls start faking that, we're f-cked. :/


There are services that let you forward telemarketers to AI’s. Totally worth it.


There are some hillarious 419eater meet comedy answering apps that direct random pre-recorded skits to the scammer.

When real-time natural speech synthesis arrives with unique accents, coupled to hardware-accelerated machine-learning, it would be within the realm of possible to direct a Turing-test-capable bot to waste a scammer's time with a generated situation and personality that meets various plausibility, social, customer qualifiers and scam-delaying constraints. Also at said point, the "are you a bot?" question non-IRL will be even more worthless but possibly comical.


Except that most telemarketing calls are themselves robots/recordings, so I'm not sure this helps anyone.


The future is a bunch of AIs trying to convince other AIs they're human.


I think hospitals/police should really start texting a phone number first, before calling to contact a family member.

Just something like, "Please call such such hospital at this number to reach us. We need to get in touch with you. You can google the hospital name to verify before calling."

I get one robocall every day. Interestingly, not 3 or 5, but just about 1 a day.


Two problems with that:

1. Many older patients don't use cell phones and are still on landlines.

2. Current processes would have to change. Currently healthcare companies first have to ask if the person picking up the phone matches name & DOB. If not, they need to ensure the person is authorized to receive the health information. This is done for confidentiality reasons (e.g. "hi your husband tested positive to $STD… oops you weren't supposed to know that, oh well have a nice day and tell him to make an appointment with us.").


> Two problems with that:

> 1. Many older patients don't use cell phones and are still on landlines.

> 2. Current processes would have to change. Currently healthcare companies first have to ask if the person picking up the phone matches name & DOB. If not, they need to ensure the person is authorized to receive the health information. This is done for confidentiality reasons (e.g. "hi your husband tested positive to $STD… oops you weren't supposed to know that, oh well have a nice day and tell him to make an appointment with us.").

Many healthcare providers now offer forms that allow you to specify the level of detail you would like for messages (typically the same form where you can add a verified contact who is eligible to receive medical information on your behalf). I was able to select something along the lines of "Leave the full details you are reporting, even if it is to a voicemail" though I can understand that that is not workable for everyone.


1. You would call them. A SMS would not go through.

2. I'm pretty sure they do that for actual callers: However, there are times they call a wife or sibling or child for a patient and they can't verify. Besides, these places DO leave voice mails asking folks to call back. This isn't much different.

Also, this last one could be resolved, but it would take some sort of stronger national digital ID. I have a secure digital mailbox for government stuff. Doctors and hospitals have a different system, but I use the same authentication for both (and payments, actually). This is a greater hurdle than dealing with robocalls, though.


I hate that shit. It basically ensures that if any identity thief in the world wants to know your full name and birthday, they just have to call you and ask. It also implies that knowing your name and birthday is an acceptable level of verification for disclosing private information. Which is it? Is the (name, birthdate) pair so private that it can serve as an authentication mechanism or is it so public that you can be expected to tell any random caller who asks?


> I think hospitals/police should really start texting a phone number first, before calling to contact a family member.

Two years ago I got a txt message, "congratulations you won, we'll be calling you shortly." I thought, "NO WAY" (I remembered doing the 'text [band name] to #####' a few weeks before), then a short time later the phone rang. I picked up the tickets and went to the concert [0].

Might not have answered if not for the text.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/Music/comments/53wch8/17_years_ago_...


If I received that SMS, I'd bet money it was a scam.


How is this better than leaving a voicemail you're notified of receiving?


You dont have to waste time listening to the voicemail. I had my carrier turn off voicemail over 5 years ago, it was the best phone related decision I have ever made.

...I may have also made friends with corporate telephony for a similar reason at work, but I'm not admitting anything.


Under the theory that the economics of scam-spam calls only work out if good victims self select by not hanging up I have long considered it a civic duty to waste the scammers time.

In the past, I managed to keep a scammer on the phone for an hour or more simply by leaving it on speaker phone and making various "oh really, interesting tell me more" sounds while half paying attention. On more than a few occasions I eventually caused the scammer to either crack up laughing-- after I got tired of stringing them along and hit them with a devastating pun-- or freak out screaming at me.

But in the last two years I've _never_ been able to bait one out long enough for them to have scammed me if I had been an eligible mark and not for the lack of trying. The majority of the scam calls just end up hanging up before I ever get to a human, the majority of those that do make it to a human hang up as soon as they hear my voice. The majority of those that don't immediately hand up, do after a couple back and forth interactions.

"You've been selected to get $1000 back from the IRS for being a great taxpayer!" "Oh man, thats great!" <click>

"You've been selected to get $1000 back from the IRS for being a great taxpayer!" "Really? How did that happen?" <click>

"You've been selected to get $1000 back from the IRS for being a great taxpayer!" "Whos this again?" <click>

I'm wondering if they're now doing some kind of demographic profiling using my voice-- e.g. I don't sound enough like an aged or mentally impaired pensioner, or perhaps even have some kind of machine-learning time waster voice identification. ... or maybe there is some kind of meta-scam where someone is charging another scammer to handle these calls but aren't actually doing the work.

Regardless, I'd like to encourage all of you to do your civic duty and waste a scammers time. It can be done with very little effort on your part and it almost certainly protects real potential victims (even with my frequent hangups, my actions are almost certainly extending protection via false positives, if nothing else). I have confirmed that these actions have not increased or decreased the rate of scam calls I get relative to my SO who doesn't engage in this practice (because she simply does not answer unrecognized numbers at all).


> Under the theory that the economics of scam-spam calls only work out if good victims self select by not hanging up I have long considered it a civic duty to waste the scammers time.

I used to immediately hang up upon receiving these spam/scam calls, but they kept coming, and I decided to do this approach.

I once got a spam call from a "credit card rate reduction" scam and I was so pissed at being interrupted so I decided to play along. I gave them a fake credit card number (that checksums right with the Luhn algorithm, there's a website that generates such fake "credit card numbers"), fake expiration date, fake zipcode, fake SSN, and fake name. Of course, they were unable to charge that "card", so the first-level scammer escalated me to his boss (not kidding). The boss asked for my bank's customer service number -- I imagine so they could pretend to be me and try to finesse the bank into letting the transaction happen. I gave them some random police department dispatch phone number, and she places me on hold. She comes back on the line, literally incandescent with rage after she called the number, and she screamed at me "I talked with the police department, they gave me your address, see you soon, bye bye" and hung up.

That caused the number of spam/scam calls i receive to go down noticeably. These people don't respect any sort of do-not-call lists but I think they may place you on internal do-not-call lists if you waste their time and infuriate them enough.

Couple months later, I got another “interest rate reduction” scam-call, and the guy doesn't waste time with the social-engineering; he straight-up opens by asking me for my credit card number and expiration. I decide to meet fire with fire, and I ask “what name do you show on the account”, he replies “it’s your name”. I pointedly ask “can you read it out for me” so he yells at me: “don’t waste my fucking time, you mother fuck” and hangs up. After I did so, I barely get any spam/scam calls at all -- maybe once every two weeks. It's pretty incredible how a little trolling saved me so much annoyance.

Reminder; never give any personal information to people calling about your credit-card/bank-account no matter who they claim they are. Always HANG UP and dial the number as printed on your payment card, these scamming shits always spoof caller-ID.


I was getting the "Mexico vacation" scam calls several times a day. It took me about 10-15 times wasting 20+ minutes of their time before they took me off. I get different ones now, though, and I usually get them when I don't have time to waste their time.

I once got the credit card interest rate scam (by "card services"), and the 3-level guy got so pissed at me for wasting his time he redirected his complaint line to my number. I would pick up to hear swear words and other things. I had to unplug my landline for an hour.

I contacted AT&T, because a lawyer I talked with said that was the right way to deal with this, and I was blown away how little shits they gave and how much BS they tried to get me to do. I canceled that landline soon after.


Where I am, there isn't really a problem with robocalls and not many scam calls, thankfully, but I still refuse to give out details over the phone, especially if they rang me.

I'm still shocked at the amount of times I got legit calls from my bank that start off with "please confirm your details". No, YOU confirm your details. I always tell them sorry, I have no proof that they are who they say, but they usually just say "No problem, call us back on the number on the back of your credit card" or somesuch, which is fine. I just wish they said that right away and didn't ask to confirm details, since it makes scammers lives easier.


My good bank has a password. I actually usually can't remember what it is, but that's fine since it's their password and I'll recognise it when they say it. "Oh, that's right! You _are_ the bank"

But they never proactively asked me to set that up, it's just that I went around this "I can't authenticate to you first, so I'll have to phone you" loop and I pointed out it would work better with a password when I called them back and to my surprise they were like "Yes, we can do that, what password should we say?" and set it up immediately.

So, worth asking I guess?


Interesting. I’ll have to try next time.


I would not suggest people try to waste scammers time, or do anything but hang up on them. A lot of calls that just hang up on you are putting out the feelers for phone numbers that have humans answering on the other line so that they know that's a viable target for attempting to scam. Showing any sign that your phone number belongs to an actual human just ups the chances that you're going to get an increased amount of phone spam, regardless of if you got the chance to waste someone's time or not. Also, people should be wary of saying anything at all the these suspicious phone calls, some of them try to get recordings of you saying some key words to make it easier to steal your identity. For instance, if someone asks if you are who you are by name and you say yes, then they've got decent confirmation that they've got a recording of a particular person saying "yes" which can be used against you in stealing your identity or credit card fraud.


To avoid "yes" recordings, I answer the phone with "<indistinct garble> speaking!" When I hear a human I adopt a creaky old-person voice. This old person tends to give their credit card information slowly, and remember that they're using the wrong card after about 14 digits.

Eventually I change back and tell the person that they're working for a fraudulent business and should worry about whether they're going to get paid, and should strongly consider getting a new job.


> This old person tends to give their credit card information slowly, and remember that they're using the wrong card after about 14 digits.

Give the full number and an expired date and go "oh.. this is my old card... I'm sorry... give me a moment, I need to look for my new one1'


> A lot of calls that just hang up on you are putting out the feelers for phone numbers that have humans answering on the other line so that they know that's a viable target for attempting to scam.

I also thought that might be the case but have performed the comparison between a number which never answers them and a number which always answers them. Several years now of experience suggests otherwise: they get the same number of spam calls.

> that they've got a recording of a particular person saying "yes"

Again, this sounds highly speculative. Do you have any citation for it? It isn't like any bank or service is comparing your voice. And if all they needed was a yes, unfortunately, there are too many ways of getting a yes from someone.

Obviously when talking to any of these scammers my 'identity' is entirely fictional.

When they used to be more responsive I had a lot of fun trying to convince them that my routing number was "1" and that my account number was "1"... Or that my name was some absurd 40 character compound name like "Jim Klenersmithvelazquezouishawexlereconomou". A friend once kept a caller from "windows" on the line for an enormous amount of time while they "restored" their system via a recovery disk after it "crashed" several times attempting to "install" their malware.


I’m super paranoid that some shady company is harvesting the voiceprints purely for malicious purposes or training an AI.

I used to simply reply with “Ola?” but now I just let GV screen the call.


Keeping them on the phone tends to work less these days (not for lack of trying, some youtuber managed to keep them on the line for 5 hours at one point); they scam centers are starting to have limits on call time, after 1 hour the call simply disconnects.


Robocalls have made my telephone so useless as a telephone that I'm beginning to wonder if I even need a telephone number at all, just as I started wondering if I actually needed a house phone or cable.


In the US, house phones and cable are for being advertised to, cell phones and streaming are for contact and content respectively. That has been the case for at least a decade. I can receive calls from numbers that are not in my contacts but the notification is silent.

Now if only I were allowed to dispose of my mailbox I could have a home free of advertising. Yesterday I received an infuriating catalog from Restoration Hardware that weighed a pound and a half, all because I bought one awful product that fell apart in a few months and had to be recycled. It amazes me that we subsidize such obnoxious ads being delivered to every resident.


> cell phones and streaming are for contact and content respectively. That has been the case for at least a decade.

That decade-long social norm is dead. Now all phones are for being advertised to.


That is true, at least in my experience. At least modern phones are smart enough to know how to shut up.


If Spectrum spent half the money they spend on leaflets and promotional offers (that aren't really promotions and invariably force one to purchase Spectrum TV) on actually growing and upgrading their fiber network, my internet at home wouldn't be so absolutely awful.

Naturally you just can't expect a comprehensive fiber network in the largest metropolitan area in the Western world, though.


Yeah, it's really insane. I think I might get more spam "upgrade" offers from Spectrum than I do all other mail combined...


> It amazes me that we subsidize such obnoxious ads being delivered to every resident.

It's actually the other way around. The amount of bulk mail helps to keep costs low for the USPS. I have receiving it, but it does make things cheaper, because it is only delivered when there's capacity (less busy days).


Cant you stick the wording "no junk mail" on your mailbox and be free of spam?

In Australia basically every mailbox has that on it and it is enforced by law.


I think the law is the opposite in the US. You legally can’t refuse the things. Or at least the mail carriers are absolutely required to deliver it to you.


You can refuse most items:

https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/508.htm

Sections "1.1.2 Refusal at Delivery" and "1.1.3 Refusal After Delivery".

Here in Finland I think 97%+ of physical advertisement "mail" is non-addressed and the carriers of those respect "no ads" signs (no address => ad).

I think this might be different in US in that advertisement mail is usually addressed?


It’s the same in Norway, but some fucker peeled my sticker off, and I keep forgetting to get a new one >:(


I've had reasonable success cutting back on useless catalogs with catalogchoice.org. There are a few very persistent clothing companies that I'll have to call to see if I can get them to finally stop sending catalogs every few weeks, but for the most part, Catalog Choice is pretty quick and effective. Too bad there's no way to opt out of all bulk mail, though.


Does someone know how this is so different in Europe, are there some technical measures perhaps? As far as I remember, I haven't received a single spam call in ten years. Apart from a couple of calls from weird countries that I didn't answer, but that's it.


AFAIK in Germany doing a Robocall is illegal if you didn't get clear consent from the called party first (300'000€ per call, additional 10'000€ if the number was hidden).

The german telcos have to my knowledge also started to block large lists of numbers used by the scammers if they are incoming calls. Some stuff still works like callback scams (They ring you for a few seconds, then hang up, calling back is expensive).

There is also the difference that the US is 300 million people that basically all speak english, which is a cheap option to hire for in Indian callcenters. Europe is much more diverse and the languages are more expensive to hire for, so it's less profitable.


The regulation the FCC is threatening to enact has existed in the UK for a little while. This means the source of spam calls is known, and can be fined.

Based on my understanding of our phone system it's a bit easier here though, as we don't have the split in operators of the core landline network - it's all OpenReach underneath.


It's different if the caller is also based in Europe but the worst offenders are not. I rarely get spam calls since I rarely pick up unless I know who the caller is and the odd times I get caught I just hang up.

MY dad went through a phase of being plagued because he is from a time when it would be considered rude not to engage in the conversation. As a consequence I suspect he was on some kind of suckers list?

It took a while to train him off this habit, then he discovered email...


Large fines. They take spam calls very seriously here. I even remember a story where a company was fined for sending unsolicited sms messages and then got fined again because the company somehow thought it was a good idea to send an apology sms message to everyone. The fines aren't small.


Absolutely. If any carrier offered a cheaper data-only plan I would seriously consider it.


I don't have a spam problem, don't have a house phone and still I wonder if I actually need a phone. I basically talk to my friends over text chat (telegram/signal/whatsapp) and my family calls me on whatsapp. Its very rare that I use the actual "phone" (typically only to call utility companies really).


So the article doesn't seem to mention any of the ongoing efforts to stop or reduce caller ID spoofing, such as SHAKEN/STIR. I'm not clear if that will do anything, and it's certainly far too little too late, but the industry is doing something.

On that note, does anyone know how SHAKEN/STIR is supposed to work? I understand that it basically sets up a PKI with JWTs in SIP headers, but from what I can tell there needs to be some sort of trusted CA which creates and signs these things, but I can't tell who that CA is or if there even is an agreed upon central CA.

I'd also be interested in any corrections/expansion on any of the things I said above, I really don't know much about it and would like to.

edit: after making this comment I did a bit more research, and it looks like[0] there will be per-country CAs that can issue certificates to owners of phone numbers within that country. I'm specifically curious about which CAs will be trusted in the United States.

[0]: https://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-burger-stir-iana-cert-00.htm...


Authority for the North American Numbering plan currently falls to the FCC, after the breakup of AT&T; they contract out administration, Ericsson got a 5 year contract in 2017, previously it was administered by Neustar (and Lockheed Martin, before Neustar was spun out).

I'd imagine Ericsson would spin up a new CA instance just for this. As the administratior, they keep the records of who phone numbers are assigned to, and where they've been ported.

My understanding is once a +1 area code is allocated to a country, that country's telecoms regulator manages further allocations (or contracts it out).


Cool, thanks for the info. Any idea what the timeline on creating that CA is?


No idea. I wasn't aware of this proposal (STIR), I just am aware of a lot of number allocation stuff. Does STIR have any support from telecoms companies and/or ITU? Or is it IANA only?

I see Neustar has a page that seems related: https://www.home.neustar/atis-testbed/index.php ?


From what I can tell, the telcos are implementing it, or at least say they are:

* "Caller Verified is T-Mobile’s implementation of the STIR and SHAKEN standards" [0]

* "Verizon reiterates both our commitment to deploying the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication technology" [1]

* "Sprint supports efforts to build the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication system" [2]

* AT&T doesn't seem to mention STIR or SHAKEN by name on their robocall page [3] but the FCC sent them a letter thanking them for their "commitment to implement a robust call authentication framework in 2019" [4]

* "Comcast is proud to be at the forefront of efforts to address the scourge of illegal spoofed robocalls in this country, including the development of the end-to-end call authentication protocol known as SHAKEN and STIR" [5]

etc

[0]: https://www.t-mobile.com/news/caller-verified-note9

[1]: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/1119062987519/2018%2011%2019%20...

[2]: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/1091391175368/Sprint%20Call%20A...

[3]: https://about.att.com/sites/cyberaware/ae/robocall

[4]: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-354933A2.pdf

[5]: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/111974588343/Comcast%20Resp%20t...


That's a nice effort, but I think the phone company should be required to itemize each call's billing information by default. Perhaps the billing number (the number obscured by spoofing) on every bill, with the rest available by request or on the website (to save paper).

But all in all, the problem is that the phone company will refuse to help unless required by law. They make good money from shitty robocallers.



Quick correction, I don't think "doing something" (italics omitted) is the legal standard for regulatory intervention


Right, I didn't mean to imply that this action by the FCC was in any way wrong. The fact that caller ID is completely unauthenticated in 2019 is horrifying, and regulation is long over due.


Funny, Pai "celebrated" repealing Obama era anti robocall laws back in March. Maybe it took him a year of robo calls on his own phone to change his mind.

https://www.cnet.com/news/courts-nixes-fcc-rules-targeting-r...

This guy is anti consumer. Don't let him fool you.


The earlier regulations were too broad and in theory could subject callers to a fine if they called or texted anyone else without prior consent.

What he is asking for now is that caller IDs be verified. I don't know how realistic that is given the way they are implimented (trivially spoofable) but that's a narrower demand.


That does not sound too broad. I don't think anyone wants these unsolicited marketing calls. And people definitely don't want the 'free vacation in the Bahamas' spam calls. I can hardly tell the two apart. What's odd is it seems there are more robocalls today than there were 5-10 years ago.


Too broad meaning if I find your lost dog, I can't technically call the number on the dog tag because I don't have consent.


Sure you do. Putting your phone number on the collar is implicit consent (request even!) to be called if the dog is found.

The law is not applied by dumb machines. No-one is getting fined in the scenario you mentioned, just like no-one is being fined for calling a pizza place because they found their number on a menu. Behavior can be used to infer consent.


That tag is written consent right there. The number isn't put there for decoration.


That would never actually happen. What did actually happen is now I get at least half a dozen robocalls per day. It has rendered my phone useless.


Except who would report that person? There has to be some sort of intent there too plus the complaint.


Sounds like you fell for fearmongering.


Doesn't 'fell for' imply they aren't posting in bad faith? Seriously, what person over the age of 15 actually thinks calling a number on a dog collar is gonna get them prosecuted by the big bad FCC? That's ludicrous even by the standards of the kind of delusions Republicans have normally.


I'm trying to stick with the HN guideline of reading people charitably, unless they make false claims as a habit.


I'm all for requiring businesses to get explicit permission from me before they can make the little box in my pocket buzz and interrupt me.


I'm... not so much, I'd prefer that they be required to register with an organization that can bop them on the head if they abuse it.

I wouldn't want to see statistical surveys, polling and other grey area items here impacted.


> I wouldn't want to see statistical surveys, polling and other grey area items here impacted.

Since literally everyone I personally know has given up answering calls because of all the spam, I'd say that your "grey area" items are already being impacted.


Allow me to introduce you to 'push polling' [1] where you disguise marketing as polling.

For example, you "survey" people with questions like "Are you aware that Hello Fresh delivers in your area?" and "Would you be more or less likely to vote for Barack Hussein Obama if you knew he was a Muslim?"

Sadly surveys and polling are already spam, anyone who wants to get rid of phone spam will have to ban nonconsensual telephone polling as well.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push_poll


> I wouldn't want to see statistical surveys, polling and other grey area items here impacted.

That was the case before. Political polls and other related things were explicitly exempted.


I'd prefer that they be required to register with an organization that can bop them on the head if they abuse it.

I know the FCC doesn't have express legislative power here, but can't they impose fines or am I mistaken-on either or both?


The FCC fines television and radio stations for regulation violations.


It should be enough to force the called ID to be valid. Then the crappy people will know you can identify them or even call them back. Removing anonymity should go a long way.


It would depend on what constitutes a valid caller ID.

At least some of the robodialer operators programatically check out a block of numbers from a VoIP vendor, make a bunch of calls, then release the numbers. If all they have to do is correctly report the number they're calling from, that's pretty useless. The called party has practically no recourse because the number that called them never accepted inbound calls, and has been disconnected by the time you call it back anyway.

How could 'valid caller ID' be defined so that robocallers can be identified?


Valid caller ID - even if it’s to a VoIP vendor’s leased number - is better than the current situation where scammers and spammers can use literally any number they want. At least I can search up a leased number, see complaints, and block them (or flag abuse with my carrier). If I (or my carrier) block them, well, serves that VoIP provider right for leasing their precious numbers out to scammers.

With spoofed numbers, I’ve seen calls appear to come from an FBI office in Virginia, local and state police divisions, state troopers, and random businesses. There isn’t any way to really deal with those kinds of calls - and you can’t reasonably screen them out.


If the number in caller id is accurate, it provides a decent reporting channel. It’d make it easier for telecom providers to take abuse reports and punish the abusive robodialers, whether by cutting them off or referring them to law enforcement.


> It’d make it easier for telecom providers to take abuse reports and punish the abusive robodialers

They simply aren't going to do that unless they're forced by law or regulation.


If the source number is valid that opens up some spam blocklist style options for phone software.


Wouldn’t that just result in orgs making their calls through shell call center services?


This is arguably a step forward, if it means there's someone to subpoena for information about the robocaller.


> It should be enough to force the called ID to be valid.

Honestly, I'd be utterly stunned if this made any noticeable impact at all.


What about individuals though? I think that is the point in question here


Nobody's[1] goal is to stop you from calling your neighbor to tell them they left their garage open or whatever. That's the sort of thing telemarketing astroturfers love to go on about, squirting squid-ink to confuse things.

[1] I'm sure it is someone's.


The regulations could have been reworked to exempt individuals using smartphones. I don't think it's that hard to write a reg that makes that distinction.


> I don't know how realistic that is given the way they are implimented (trivially spoofable)

They are trivially spoofable at the tech level. But if there was a "know your customer" style law enforced for telcos, it would be easy to resolve. Telcos know who sends them the call. It's either a) their customer and they're responsible for verification, b) their customer with a signed agreement for caller id substitution (customer is responsible), or c) another telco, and now it's their turn through this question.

Foreign telcos could be a problem, but really, the US can put enough pressure by "comply or we can't legally forward the call" to solve this.


If Pai says something I assume the opposite is true until I have harder evidence. I do not believe that people produced a regulation that would have criminalized any unsolicited call.


Broad or not, we currently have a consumer unfriendly FCC. The people making the robo calls are just becoming more brazen because the threat of repercussion is small. Repealing those laws didn't help.


that sounds like a feature, not a bug. Cold calls, even without spoofed caller IDs, should be a fine-able offense.


What? I want my acquaintances to be able to give me a ring if they found my number through mutual friends. That’s a good thing. Preventing or discouraging that would be bullshit.


In the accepted meaning, a "cold call" is an unsolicited commercial call.

Nobody is looking to saddle non-commercial personal calls with fines or prior consent.


T-Mobile is already signing their Caller IDs. T-Mobile to T-Mobile can show if a Caller ID is verified today on certain phones.


> The earlier regulations were too broad and in theory could subject callers to a fine if they called or texted anyone else without prior consent.

This is exactly the way it should be.


the reason we have judges is to distinguish between cases were scammers/commercial spammers blast millions of phones with robocalls and people accidentally dialing the wrong number or calling someone who doesn't have their contact saved


The existence of judges does not negate the need for the legislative branch to craft clear laws (and the executive to craft clear regulations).


P sure the executive agency that uses its rulemaking authority here FCC, clearly said you need an autodialer


I'm also not terribly convinced that the earlier rules would help against the current spate of robocalls


The reason we're seeing so many robocalls now is because we currently have a consumer unfriendly FCC. Repealing those laws only made the people doing the robo calling more brazen.


The number of robocalls I'm getting is consistent over the last five years. Maybe I'm just special. I'm also not convinced that any law will fix this - it requires the carriers to agree to change the entry points into the PSTN.


This is just a conclusion plus adverbs.


Too broad is your opinion and I see no problem with the way that law was written.


If the only way one would get caught doing that is if they were doing it at scale, I'd say the law was working PERFECTLY. The repeal should be repealed.


SPF for caller ID or something isn’t a bad idea, IMO.


Regulations are always going to be "too broad" to magically work if enforced by people who haven't got your best interests at heart, the solution is neither to try to imagine some hypothetical regulation that is "narrow enough" nor to give up regulating and wring our hands at the consequences as unregulated capitalism cheerfully kills us all to make a few pennies more, but to get _good regulators_

The UK has a lot of white collar crooks who'd really rather you didn't know what they own. Companies House, the regulator and list of all companies incorporated in the UK, was told wink wink to get them to list the actual Human People who control them.

Unsurprisingly in practice the result is full of obvious lies (corporations listed instead of Human People for example) and omissions (companies that claim there is no-one controlling them when obviously they're actually run by a Russian oligarch who suspects his name on the paperwork might make life trickier)

When asked about this Companies House says alas, it doesn't have the funding needed to ever actually prosecute anyone for violating the law. Too bad.

But it turns out they did find enough money to prosecute exactly one person. The person who registered bogus companies with the names of politicians who allowed this bullshit to happen as the Human Persons controlling them. That person, unlike all the tax evading billionaires, crooks, and mass murderers known to be violating the law, got prosecuted...

The _wrong_ lesson is that we shouldn't have asked. The _right_ lesson is that the government is complicit and its regulator needs to be run by somebody who isn't there to cover for the bad guys.


Not all callers, auto-callers. You have to be a robot to qualify.


So he's only addressing spoofed caller ID, and not doing a thing about the ungodly number of spam calls? Sounds to me like his priorities are exactly backwards.


Indeed! Merely requiring that CallerID be authenticated will do little.

If they also add large fines for spoofing, with strong & rapid enforcement, that may at least reduce the onslaught of 'neighbor spoofing' calls.

They also need to add large fines with strong & rapid enforcement for violating the Do Not Call list.

With this, there might be the basis for a set of apps allowing users to add numbers to blacklists that then just get routed to the bitbucket.

It should be done at the network level by Verizon/AT&T, etc. let us subscribe to and augment the blacklists.


Too bad the public could not help direct this policy rather than have it fall to one person's biases


Not quite. It falls to the biases of the party that controls the FCC.


but with the internet and all the modern technology, should such an important decision be centralized like this at all?


Most likely they affected him personally.


Robocalls are terrible and a valid reason to have regulations. We should sign up every Senator and Congressman’s cellphone to N number of scammy sites. See how fast the issue is solved. SS7 issue be damned, AT&T and Verizon will solve it if you force their hands.


There's some indication it'd work, at least a little:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/telephone-scam-artist-p...

> A telephone scam artist picked the wrong target — former FBI chief and CIA boss William Webster.


Good luck finding a congressperson's personal cell phone.


What would it cost to Wardial a whole area code with TextToSpeech + SpeechToText on twilio?


https://www.twilio.com/voice/pricing/us

If you need 1 minute per number: ~10,000,000 minutes * 0.013 $/minute = $130,000


Not quite that many, the NANP only allows NXX numbers that would match this Regex:

[2-9](?!11)[0-9]{2}

So there's only 7,200,000 numbers allowable within a singe NANP area code.


Sounds cheaper than lobbying to get a law passed.

Just sayin'...


Reminds me of the time, well a long time ago, when I worked at a tech startup during the early 2000 bubble. Talent war was intense. We had recruiters cold calling people's desk to try to lure people away.

At that office, like every desk (many unoccupied) had a normal phone, with an extension #.

In one instance, a recruiter called and it was answered and he/she was told not interested. After that call, every phone on each of the row of desks started ringing one at a time.

After about 3 - 5 such ringings, someone picked up and told them to knock it off.


I've been cold-called at my desk by a recruiter twice in the past couple years.

For one thing, I have no idea how they got my desk number (they knew my name), as that's supposed to be internal-only information, so that was an unpleasant surprise.

For another thing, I'm of that population that strongly prefers text-mode communication over phone calls.

So making an cold call to my work was a great way to get a "fuck off" and blacklist that recruiter. I wonder from what business culture they come from, and what their success rate with that method are, to make that approach seem viable.


So you become a carpet-bombing robocaller to fight robocalls? That takes "turn into what you hate" to a whole new level


By no means should anyone do this.


The vast majority of robo calls are done for someone either in the US (a company) to make money or uses the US banks to collect money in some way.

What they may want to consider is a team of people to actually take the calls and trace them back to the source. Or at least the people that are making money in some way. And don't say or react 'oh that wouldn't work'. Of course it would work if done correctly. No point in selling health insurance by way of a third party making calls or on your own if it will get you in hot water.

From what I can tell nobody is making robo calls to simply be annoying. It's quite different than a DOS attack done for fun or many other 'crimes' if you want to call it that.

Not that they shouldn't approach this in the way they are. But to simply make as if there is no way to get the perps is a bit ridiculous. Someone is in the end selling something or collecting some name or something like that.

I am reminded of what I thought back when graffiti was a bigger deal than it is now. Why not simply set honey pots that you know are going to get tagged? Or monitor various locations likely to get graffiti.

Now this doesn't mean that offshore people with scams won't get involved. That could happen. But as a start might make sense to at least gut the people in the US that are benefiting from this (in addition not instead of other 'remedies' by the carriers).


Still no word on when they'll crack down on USPS junk mail too, I miss important letter because my mailbox is piled up with spam. And people to have to buy bigger PO Boxes just to support their racket.


USPS would go bankrupt if it wasn't for junk mail. It is pretty much the only mail I get since I opted out of physical billing statements.


Possibly, but they also do quite a lot of business in package delivery, which is something customers actually still want.



I looked to see how I can cancel my mail too, they don’t let you.


At least the junk in my mailbox doesn't yank me out of a good programming flow.


I've stopped answering my phone completely unless the number is in my contacts. If I plan to communicate with anyone (recruiters, etc.) I make it explicit that I won't answer their call unless they give me the number they'll be calling from ahead of time, and then I tell them I'll place them in my contacts with that number.

My hope is that this is training these individuals to be more aware of the issue, assuming they've forgotten about it due to being desensitized or using some paid caller ID spam service that not everyone has access to for lack of funds.

I've also long turned off my voice mail; it's just a waste of time.


What was the last time anyone real dialed me with the same first 6 digits of my phone number? Probably my elemantry school friend who lived up the block when we had landlines. These days anyone matching the first 6 digits of my phone is obviously spoofing hoping i'll pick up a 'local' call.


Spam robo calls consist of more than just spoofed numbers. Maybe you've been blessed with good luck in that regard, but I receive both variants of spam.


I stopped using phone completely, period, even for known numbers. It's in permanent silence, no vibration, no checking mode. It took some time for friends to learn they have to use Skype or whatsapp to contact me, but after that I don't have to worry about spam and midnight calls anymore.


I do something similar. My default ring tone and message tone is "silent". I then set ring/message tones for some people in my contacts.

I've heard that some smart phones don't let people use my method any more. i.e. you can not set default tones to silent.


You can set a zero-length sound file to combat.


Oh, good point! I will tell my coworkers that are in that situation.


So, you're basically not reachable in an emergency unless someone knows the special code to get hold of you? To say nothing of local service people etc. who you might have to deal with.

I don't like junk calls either but cutting myself off from normal communication channels doesn't seem as if it would be very practical.


I don't go as far as that commenter, but I'm very tempted. Nobody that I personally know calls me without texting first anyway (well, except for one rude guy), especially if it's an emergency.


People can use texts for emergency messages. If they want to voice call, this usually mean situation is not so urgent in a first place.


I think I'd take issue with a text "Umm, yeah, your mom died so call me".

And, yes, I do in fact use punctuation on text messages...


No offence, but something is seriously wrong with your head


I find they very rarely leave a voicemail message, and voicemail transcription has been a boon for the few that hang on the line.


While I was reading the last paragraph of this story, my phone rang, showing a number in a nearby town. And of course, as I confidently expected, it was "Hi there! This is Stan, from your local air duct cleaning service!"

Nice to get that evening call from Stan, or James, or Dave, wanting to clean my ducts. Every fucking evening.

Yes, FCC. Do it do it do it!


Are robcalls something that ALL Americans deal with daily, or is it just really bad for some people?


It happens on a very large scale. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/01/29/report-...

In 2018 Americans got 26.3 billion robocalls, up 46% from 2017.

With an estimated population of 328,863,150 in 2018, that's 79 per person, so more than once a week on average, and of course a whole bunch of that population doesn't have a phone (e.g. most kids)


I get several of them every day and I know other people who do, too. I just disable phone calls most of the time because T-Mobile doesn't care at all to address the issue, no matter how many times I've reported it. Their answer is for me to install a 3rd party app that doesn't actually block the calls but hangs up on them.


T-Mobile has put much effort into not only identifying scam calls but also the ability to block them. No app required, no extra charge.

https://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-38784


I've gotten plenty of legitimate calls marked as spam caller, which means T-Mobile can't be trusted here.


I haven’t gotten any spam calls after enabling it on my phone number that I’ve had with TMO for 20+ years, nor have any legit calls been marked as spam. I suppose everyone’s milegage may vary.


How do you know if they blocked a legit call?


Fair point. I make it extremely easy to find me through methods besides a phone call, so I assume if a legit call did not come through because of T-Mobile blocking, I’d find out through an alternate channel (the caller iMessages or emails instead).


What I've specifically found is I miss calls from businesses that I've requested, but did not know would be coming on that day or from that number. And they aren't going to send me emails about the missed call, usually.


I give out a Google Voice number to callers of this type that doesn’t ring anywhere. I get an emailed voicemail transcription, and can choose to return the call at my leisure. Consider it!


The fact is, in the business world people often don't leave messages. You can miss important conversations if you don't pick up every call.


If you’re not leaving a message, the call isn’t worth returning. I don’t lose any sleep operating this way. I can appreciate that some people have no choice if inbound calls are business leads or the like. Find a more resilient inbound funnel flow I’d argue.


FYI, I was paying attention recently and calls from my bank that I requested have been marked that way, for e.g. 2FA verification. If I had turned on the option to block such calls I'd have been left clueless why I wasn't getting the requested call.


Unfortunately, in spite of their "uncarrier" schtick, they don't offer this on grandfathered plans. I'm on an old 6GB/month plan that provides high-speed tethering, which I don't want to give up, so that means no scam blocker for me.

I get far fewer scam calls on the cell phone than I do on my ex-landline (now VoIP), at least. For the VoIP, I had to set up a CAPTCHA on Asterisk.


> Unfortunately, in spite of their "uncarrier" schtick, they don't offer this on grandfathered plans. I'm on an old 6GB/month plan that provides high-speed tethering, which I don't want to give up, so that means no scam blocker for me.

You should double check with customer care (611). As I mention in a sibling comment, I'm on a very old plan (20+ years). It's SimpleChoice, 10GB per line unlimited calling and texting (4 lines + 2 free as part of a one time promo).


Interesting that our experiences are total opposites. I’m on T-Mobile and I rarely get robocalls. When I do it’s always displayed as “Scam Likely”


I wonder what Finland is doing correctly to avoid this. I'd never heard about robocalls or received any, until visiting the US and getting some to the phone of our AirBnB.


It's not just finland. I'd guess that it's much less of a problem anywhere in europe. As a german I can't remember when I had my last spam call (from a real person), probably multiple years back. An automatic robo-call, however, I have never received.


I have used the same mobile number for about 20 years, and always answer my phone when it rings. I would say I receive perhaps 5-10 robocalls per year. It ain't everybody, but it is a big problem.

One piece of anecdata I'd note is that I'm around people all the time, and their phones are seldom ringing. When they do ring, they at least look at it.


I don't get them on my Sprint phone, somehow. My work phone is AT&T, it's constantly getting them (I want to have my Chinese coworker listen to a few of the Chinese recordings...) so I just leave it powered off most of the time. No big deal, maybe 4 legitimate inbound calls in 4 years, of which I missed 3.


I have all of my cell phones on DND mode and I have people send me an iMessage if they want a voice call. I tried to get my carriers to disable voicemail on my lines entirely, to no avail


Average of 3 but somewhere between 2-6 nearly every single day. Tmobile displays a lot of them as "scam likely" at least now.


Yep.


It's really bad for most people.

I only get about one a week because I don't engage with the robocalls or give my number out freely.

Other people don't protect their privacy as well, or they do engage with the robocalls (answer, or say "hello" when they answer which triggers the bot to continue, etc).


> Other people don't protect their privacy as well, or they do engage with the robocalls (answer, or say "hello" when they answer which triggers the bot to continue, etc).

Can you cite some support for this belief?

My SO never answers any calls with unrecognized numbers, screening all of them via voicemail.

I eagerly respond to every call in an effort to waste the scammer's time.

We get the same number of junk calls.


I can't speak to your specific circumstances as I don't know the history of the phone numbers, who they've been given to, other personal information that robocallers may be profiling you on, etc.

Or maybe the robocallers could be calling you two equally because whatever information they have, indicates the owners of those two numbers are married and either person could answer the phone. All they know is that they spend a lot of time on the phone with you, and you haven't bought anything yet.

I'm not sure why the facts that different people have different views on privacy or that robocallers wait for victims to say something, need to be cited.

If you meant to quote this: "I only get about one a week because I don't engage with the robocalls or give my number out freely." I should have written "... in part because ..."

There are probably other factors that robocallers use to profile their victims such as income, debts, purchase history, family, etc which they probably use to target (call them more often) people who they think are more susceptable to their scams/products/services.


The FCC previously proposed giving carriers "freedom to block".[1] That didn't fly. Insisting on tighter standards for caller ID is reasonable enough.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/11/20/fcc-has...


I understood the problem to be, at least in no small part, regulatory to begin with. To what extent are carriers permitted to deliberately not complete a call originating outside their own network (what about from a foreign network)?


I've noticed that my prepay burner phones, some of which I've kept in service for years, never receive robocalls.

It's definitely not a blind system of calling all numbers, you can have a robocall-free existence. I've simply never supplied the numbers for those phones to any personal information selling (or leaking) services/businesses, and that seems to effectively keep them off the call lists.


Putting aside any discussion of Pai's motivations and political considerations, is there a reason that carriers wouldn't want to eliminate these robocalls? Are the spoofers paying the carriers? It seems like any carrier that figured out how to effectively eliminate (or even reduce) them would have a massive competitive advantage until the others caught up, right?


That would require cost sunk into innovative engineering, while the business model of telecoms is stasis at best and anticonsumer practices at worse.


Carriers do still pay n cents a minute for calling->receiving carriers, so the receiving carrier has a financial incentive to keep the robocalls coming.


I almost exclusively use my Google Voice number and its remarkable how good it is at filtering spam-calls. I want to tell everyone to get Google Voice.. but given their history of killing successful projects. Well, its only a matter of time.

Dear Google: here take my money! Keep Google Voice!


Nearly 100% of the spam calls I get on my cell phone in the past few years are to the actual cell phone number (which I've never given anyone), not the GV number. :(

Sadly, I'm not aware of a good way to filter these out.


It's a bit of work, but what I've done in the past is to set the default ringtone to a silent ring tone (or the mosquito one if you're old enough and want to annoying your kids), then for each of your contacts set a custom ringtone. Doesn't scale well if you've got a lot of contacts to deal with.


Hopefully this regulation will really make illegal telemarketers stop calling us with those spam calls.I also read an article that might be useful for someone who has similar robocalls problems at https://www.whycall.me/news/consumer-wins-massive-229500-rob....


I'm sure Pai "threatening regulatory intervention" has them quaking in their boots. They just toss him a few benjamins and the he shuts tf up.


Thank god. It's getting ridiculous. I get 3 or 4 of these every day now. That's something like 90% of the calls I get.


What needs to happen is jail time for systematic violation of the "do not call" list. Anything less is bandaids.


I agree completely, though I wonder why do-not-call even needs to be a thing here. These spammers are calling repeatedly for the sole purpose of committing fraud¹. Fraud, normally, is illegal. Why do phones need special legislation here?

¹The factory warranty on my vehicle is going to expire? I don't have a vehicle with an expiring warranty. "This is your final notice" how I wish those words would be true. Or my "medical-grade knee brace" that I supposedly wear. Or the interest rate I could get on the CC I don't have.


Why do we need do-not-call? Because even if it isn't fraud, I still don't want them to call me.

[Edit: And I think it is in fact working, in that the non-fraud people don't call me much anymore. So the ones who do call are the ones willing to break the do-not-call law, which means they're probably also willing to break other laws, like the ones against fraud.]


Most of them aren't in the US, so it isn't clear how that would work.


That part would work out by making it impossible to have an international call spoof US caller ID.


I like how Pai is championing this issue only because it's the most uncontroversial action he can possibly take. So that he can say "Look! I'm doing something! I'm totally not giving the telecom companies a free pass!"


I have a phone number from a city I used to live in 10 years ago. I don't keep up with anyone from that city so if I get a call from that area code its most likely a spam call.


It is out of control. A robot selling health insurance keeps calling at all hours, although I live in Canada where I enjoy universal health care.


I get about 5 junk calls a day, at least 2 usually in Chinese. Does anyone know what the ones in Chinese are about?

These days I just don't answer unless it's someone in my contacts, if it's anything important they'll leave a message.

Wonder if it's possible to have a plan with NO voice on it!


Just give consumers the ability to see the actual number or VOIP address that's calling them instead of "Caller ID", even if the number is blocked. Then consumers can accurately create an adblock-like list of spam numbers, block calls from outside their country, etc.


The problem I notice is that I'm getting calls from my local area code (low population area). Chances are those numbers are registered, used, and released. Poor dev or person in the near future will find themselves on a blacklist.


Those numbers are just the caller id rather than the true origin of the caller. Anybody can claim anything as their caller id. The phone companies know the true origin (usually outside the US) but they do not pass that information forward.


NoMoRobo is free for landline VOIP in the US (maybe Canada too). Works like a charm in 98% of the time.

For cell phones, you'll usually have to pay for such an app that can intercept calls and check RBLs of naughty numbers.


Checking for naughty numbers is completely useless, when the incoming caller ID is spoofed every time.


Robocalls aren't the worst part of caller id spoofing. Robocalls are basically annoyances. However, there are real scams such as the IRS scam https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-urges-public-to-stay-alert-... where people are getting called with numbers that appear to be from the government, and are losing millions of dollars.

We really need a solution to prevent number spoofing.


I'm one who has used number spoofing for good. I create a system to call patients and remind them of medical appointments many years ago, and we would spoof the Caller ID number so that it showed the call coming from the appointment desk of the relevant Doctor's office, even though all the calls were actually originated from a central location. The company had ownership of all phone numbers we displayed, and it was beneficial to users who could call back and reach an appointment desk with the power to help them.


Yeah, that's one of the issues. There are actually quite a few legit reasons to spoof Caller ID. So "ban spoofing, period" is pretty much a non-starter.


Just do it like SPF does for email; the legitimate owner of a number may delegate its use to anyone they choose.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: