Why Robocalls Aren’t Going Away Anytime Soon

Robocalls are like email spam and phishing attacks in that they are never likely to go away, a pair of experts predicted during a presentation at a technology conference earlier this month, according to a published report on wired.com. While progress has been made, there are still too many sticking points that will make it impossible to truly stamp out those menacing calls, which, in the end, may be a good thing for the accounts receivable management industry.

Ultimately, trying to determine if a call is legitimate or not isn’t always as easy as it looks. Measures like the STIR/SHAKEN protocol and laws like the TRACED Act have done a good job at picking off the low-hanging fruit, but one of the issues is an argument that companies in the ARM industry have been making for years — how is a carrier supposed to know if a call is legitimate or not. Is it their job to decide which conversations people are allowed to have?

That kind of decision gets into all kinds of Big Brother, privacy and surveillance issues, while also getting incredibly close to First Amendment concerns, as well. The more that a carrier or provider does to block robocalls, the more likely that legitimate calls are going to get blocked in the robocall version of friendly fire.

“As providers have gotten more aggressive blocking or labeling suspicious calls, they’ve taken on more risk that they’ll mis-block or mislabel a legitimate call,” said Josh Bercu, of USTelecom, who gave a presentation at RSA earlier this month in San Francisco with Gary Warner of DarkTower, a security firm. “Maybe it really was a call from the bank or the pharmacy. There is some delicate balancing that providers have to do, and some are more aggressive than others.”

Beyond STIR/SHAKEN and the TRACED Act and other efforts, different carriers and providers use different analytics, meaning there is no one standard that everyone follows. So a call that is blocked on one network may not be blocked on another.

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