By Linda Vandeloop, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

When I have a leaky faucet, I only need one tool – a telephone to call my plumber. But my plumber needs many tools to repair my leaky faucet, including screw drivers, channel lock and needle-nose pliers, and adjustable crescent wrenches. Like a leaky faucet, the fight against illegal and unwanted robocalls requires voice service providers to employ multiple tools, and AT&T is committed to using every tool available to us in this fight. And our efforts are paying off for our customers. We have now blocked 3.5 billion illegal and unwanted calls before they could reach our customers’ phones.

Robocalls are almost always annoying and sometimes dangerous or frightening. They range from someone trying to sell a home heating duct cleaning service to an IRS impersonator threatening jail time unless an immediate payment is made. To help our customers decide which calls to answer, we make available AT&T Call Protect, a free app available on iOS and Android. AT&T Call Protect blocks calls known to be fraudulent and provides customers with information about the nature of certain incoming calls (e.g., telemarketer or suspected spam). 

In addition to Call Protect, AT&T has implemented a methodology that enables us to look for indications that a particular phone number is being used for illegal robocalls and, once identified, triggers an AT&T investigation. A thorough investigation is necessary to prevent blocking legitimate calls. If the investigator is convinced that a particular phone number is being used in an illegal robocall campaign, AT&T blocks calls from that number. In addition to the efforts we make within our network, we also cooperate with our fellow carriers on a process called traceback, which maps a call path through multiple networks to identify the call originator’s location. We are also working with our industry partners to develop callerID authentication technology that will provide additional protection by letting consumers know when a call is being spoofed.

Despite all these efforts, the bad guys work every day to counter customer and carrier-initiated methods to screen and block illegal robocalls, so we need to continuously work to develop new tools. Ultimately, the goal is to find the bad guys and stop them. To that end, we look forward to continuing our partnerships with the industry, the FCC, the FTC, consumer advocates, law enforcement and others to add tools to our toolbox and work toward putting an end to illegal and unwanted calls.

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