How to use new technology to fight phone scammers

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In 2019, Congress passed the TRACED law to give the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) additional tools to combat robocalls. It’s a problem facing call centers and public sector voters; people are still receiving millions of robocalls (automated or pre-recorded messages) and scam calls (made by criminals) every year in the U.S

It is the job of government agencies to use the technological tools available today to combat fraudulent, phone-related activities, enhance public trust and citizen experience.

The not-so-smartphone problem

The household landline is steadily declining; about a third (37%) of the homes still to have An. In an incredible technological revolution, smartphones have become the phone of choice for most homes and individuals. Smartphones are powerful, but their ability to stamp out scam calls is still decidedly inefficient. Today’s smartphones don’t pull caller ID information from a centralized directory of phone numbers. Instead, they rely on information from your contact list to identify incoming calls. Essentially, you’re telling your phone who’s calling — not the other way around.

Most people don’t realize cell phones do not have caller ID, causing problems for government agencies trying to reach beneficiaries or voters. To deal with the over 3 billion spam calls received per month, most people just ignore numbers they don’t recognize it.

Because of this break in public trust, many government agencies will not reach out over the phone. Instead, they will answer calls from consumers asking for help. However, if a recipient misses a call, they face the daunting prospect of calling them back – only to navigate endless menus and jump through hoops to reach a live person on the other end of the line. The result is a further breakdown of trust and loss of confidence in the effectiveness of public sector call centers.

Telephone service providers have developed technical ways to alleviate the problem of compromised trust. Many major carriers use a certification system for phone numbers registered with customers. This development is due to the STIR/SHAKEN identification of the caller framework established by Neustar Management and mandated by the FCC as part of the TRACED Act.

With caller ID authentication standards such as STIR/SHAKEN, telephone service providers verify that a caller’s actual number matches the caller ID information, giving greater confidence to the call recipient. It’s a small step, but it shows how the public sector can make better use of technology tools to solve these problems. Unfortunately, the scammers also have a say in this process and are not going away without a fight.

Related: Increasing AI threat sounds like your crush on the phone, but it’s not really them

Robocalling isn’t going anywhere

Robocalls and scam calls are not declining anytime soon – they are too lucrative for the fraudsters who commit them. Fraudulent calls in 2021 cost Americans more than $29 billion. Without positive identification in the form of verified caller ID, the public can never be sure if they are talking to a legitimate service. The result is a worrying loss of confidence in government call centers.

Fraud doesn’t stop at government call centers. Law enforcement agencies have taken an alarming leap in one spoofing technique known as swatting. The basic concept is the same, but the agency is the first victim of the scam – with potentially deadly consequences for those who are supposed to be protected by the agencies.

Many government call centers have tried to combat spoofing by disabling initial contact with customers over the phone, but millions of people fall for this scam every year. Some agencies send public reminders that they won’t call about a problem, but scammers make their calls convincing enough to succeed.

Related: How to Avoid Spam Calls and Focus on Important Ones

How technology can help

All is not lost. Scam calls are a technical problem that requires a technical solution. There are many tools that government agencies and private organizations can implement to restore consumer confidence. An example is emerging technology that offers better caller ID by applying a token to verified phone numbers or by displaying a brand logo on the recipient’s phone. Services similar enable organizations to ensure that outgoing calls are not misidentified as spam or blocked by the telephone system and are actually coming from the correct entity.

It is similar to your fingerprint: hard to forge and uniquely linked to your identity. Calls can be certified as they are routed by verifying that the phone number belongs to the person (or call center) placing the call.

Major cell phone carriers also often use each other’s databases as trusted sources, so this tool isn’t limited to a single carrier. It can also stop spoofed outgoing calls at the source and identify possible fraudulent calls so people can screen them properly.

Another emerging caller ID technology has worked remarkably well for the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). During the height of COVID-19, the VDH reached out to patients and close contacts on a daily basis. When only an unknown phone number was displayed, many calls went unanswered, wasting department time and resources.

When the VDH branded the calls as displayed on the recipients’ phone screens, with the logo and name of the department on the recipient’s smartphone, the first reply rate increased almost immediately by 105%.

Related: This Saas-based startup is disrupting the call center market with AI-based voice bots

Tools to restore trust

Scammers are constantly innovating, but the technology sector is also innovating. Phone providers, third-party service providers, and the federal government continue to develop new anti-spoofing tools, processes, and policies to protect consumers — and government agencies need to be sure to use them. Through ongoing vigilance, they can combat fraudulent calls, build public trust, and improve customer service.

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