back to article 'This is insane!' FCC commissioner tears into colleagues over failure to stop robocalls

It was supposed to be a moment of victory: the FCC had tracked down two people responsible for making tens of millions of robocalls in America, and is planning to fine them $82m and $37.5m respectively. "This is the Commission’s first major enforcement action against a company that apparently commandeered consumers’ phone …

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Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

I get 1-2 per day. Try blocking before the repeat calls come in.

How do the carriers make money off these calls?

Along with spam emails, could there be a $0.05 charge per transmission after some limit (100?) per day?

Obviously Mr. Telecom AJ Pai doesn't feel the pain. He's probably still garnering money from his various stings representing the communications vultures.

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

How do the telecoms make money? As per national treaties going back many years, every call must be connected. To encourage the companies to do this, every company through which the call travels, receives a micropayment from the originator of the call. Many micropayments is a hell of a lot of dosh. It's like asking a heroin addict to receive payment for injecting themselves billions of times a day....

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

"How do the telecoms make money?"

I'm not sure if this is still the case, but in the US aren't mobiles charged for receiving calls as well as making them?

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

<quote>I'm not sure if this is still the case, but in the US aren't mobiles charged for receiving calls as well as making them?</quote>

One word answer - YES!

And $DEITY help you if you are on a plan that provides X minutes per month because you do not need an """unlimited""" plan. Overages are a BITCH!

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

Well, Verizon is definitely making money off this from me. I have to pay $4.99 a month for their caller ID feature, which correctly identifies about 50% of the robocalls coming to my phone. The rest are all being spoofed as local calls (usually they have the same prefix as my cell phone.

In my opinion, this feature should be free since it is "somewhat" effective in identifying some of these calls, but you know they love the fact there's a constant barrage of these calls, which lead folks like me to purchasing one of their optional features.

I'm sure there's other ways they benefit from this industry (probably not as much now that they all use voip) but let's be honest, if the telecoms wanted to fix this, they could. There's ways to block known IP addresses used by voip systems of these call centers/robosystems. They could change IPs, but if the system is reactive reasonably fast, the new IPs could be blocked before they make 1M calls.

Pretty much any IP spewing 100s of calls per hour should be blocked.

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

I get 1-2 per day. Try blocking before the repeat calls come in.

Blocking calls is not an option. The scammers are laughing now as they are using every legitimate (callerID information ties to real people, mostly my neighbors) phone information in your local area. So are you stating to block legitimate people? When I told one of them that I was going to report them on the do not call list, they laughed at me and said go ahead. So instead I started asking for more information from them, such as a call back phone number or email address that I could add to the report. It seems that the callerID information is automated, so the actual person on the phone is does not know what it always is.

Just yesterday, we had a call where the callerID was my own. Kinda weird talking to yourself on the phone, where there is someone else on the other end of the line that is not you, but appears to be using your phone.

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You need a non-local number then

I have a cell number for a city in which I never lived, because the carrier I wanted way back when I got my first cell phone in 2000 didn't offer service where I did live. So I used an ex-girlfriend's address (with her permission, I used autopay so I told her to just throw out the bills)

So now I can safely ignore any calls from that prefix. A lot of people have non-local numbers if they've moved and kept the same number, but feel since they know some people in that area they can't just ignore the calls.

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated ... Screening

"1-2 per day"

This is why I only answer the phone for those in my address book. Everyone else has to leave a message, and it's shocking how many don't.

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

"Just yesterday, we had a call where the callerID was my own. "

We did, too, but now block our own number, because we never call ourselves.

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated and the carriers will laugh.

"I'm not sure if this is still the case, but in the US aren't mobiles charged for receiving calls as well as making them?"

That was the idea in the US as the radio frequencies were used either way, but this fact usually only emerges these days with prepaid calling plans. Most postpaid ones are flat-rate so the issue gets glossed over.

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Re: Poor FCC Commisioner Rosenworcel. She will now be inundated ... Screening

"This is why I only answer the phone for those in my address book. Everyone else has to leave a message, and it's shocking how many don't."

Not here. If you send some of these robocallers to voicemail, they'll abuse it by going on and on with their spiel until your mailbox/answering machine fills up.

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The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

The FCC's actions over the last year or so clearly demonstrate the agency couldn't care less about actual human beings. It only cares about enriching its corporate masters. We can't expect any real help from them.

But the solution is pretty easy. I use Tasker to do this, but there's probably other apps that can accomplish the same thing: when a call comes in, my script checks if the number is one that's in my address book. If it's not, the call is sent to voice mail without even ringing. That stops all robocalls from bothering me without making it impossible for people I don't know to reach me.

Job done.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

What about land lines & feature phones that can't run such apps? There needs to be a solution that *all* phones benefit from.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

> "But the solution is pretty easy. I use Tasker to do this, but there's probably other apps that can accomplish the same thing: when a call comes in, my script checks if the number is one that's in my address book. I"

Which works for many of the calls, for you. The approach is unusable for most people, and works for you only until more people use it. Then illicit lists of your contact phone numbers are sold, and the calling number is spoofed as one of your business contacts.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

> I use Tasker to do this

I click the thing in my Phone app that says "Filter spam calls" and Google does that all for me.

It's in my Moto G6 running Oreo, and it was in my Nexus 6P running Marshmallow.

I haven't gotten a spam call in about 4 months.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

That prompted me to look through my settings to find it. Ta.

Seems like it uses Hiya for inbound caller id lookup

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

The FCC under Pai has adopted One Touch Make Ready rules for telephone poles, this alone has done more to improve broadband in the US then anything the previous chairman did.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

"I click the thing in my Phone app that says "Filter spam calls" and Google does that all for me."

I can't imagine how depending on a data-abusing company to protect us against phone-abusing companies is a long term solution. With that logic, where's the company that will protect us against Google's abuse?

I'd rather have governments do what they're supposed to do - regulate.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

That's not quite the same thing, but if that works better for some, then awesome!

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

Oh, I agree. I'm just saying that the solution is not going to be coming from the FCC anytime soon, so we're all on our own with this issue for the foreseeable future.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

"The approach is unusable for most people"

This approach is a perfectly usable one for most Android users. I would agree, though, if you had said "the approach is unusable for many people".

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

I guess that depends on how you define "improve broadband". What I see coming form Pai's FCC is the opposite of that.

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Unhappy

Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

So, you redirect all calls that are not from an address book entry to voicemail.

..... aand now your voicemail is useless, as there will always be loads of spam calls in it. You will never pick up a real voicemail, as your VM box is always full.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

if the 'provider' can offer an app to filter these noxious annooyances, it is charging you for using the app as well, (someone is making money off the aPP)

so they let 1 percent net LESS robocalls through to the poor saps at the end, and leave the other 99.99 percent covered in robo SHIT. they could give a damn, after all 'BUYER BEWARE, telecom is just another PRODUCT to suckle on your money tits.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

auto-diallers never leave a VM message in my experience - they pick up the network VM announcement and terminate the call. That said, I get very few robo-calls to my mobile - most are to my land line.

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

scrub alert

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Re: The FCC isn't going to do anything that isn't easy

"auto-diallers never leave a VM message in my experience"

Opposite here. They hear the trigger and go into a long spiel to fill up the mailbox. Especially true of campaign calls which are immune to prosecution because they're protected speech under the First Amendment.

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Is this a US only problem or is it also happening in other countries?

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Here in the UK, I'm seeing a big rise in speculative calls - made to keep a human operator busy but dropped when he gets another answer.

More robocalls too, but they're mostly 'legitimate' - appointment reminders, account chasers etc.

I put the phone down as soon as I recognise a robot : if they want to contact me so much, they can get a real person to do it. I also drop calls that have a recognisable call-centre background buzz, or appear to be offline until after I respond.

I don't care that I don't get a message that I might have wanted. I'm doing my bit to make legit robocallers unusable as well as spammers.

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It happens in Canada too I've had several calls from them saying their from Canada revenue agency, Amazon and westjet a few hotels too.

one time I even got a call from myself, my name and number was on the call display.

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Anonymous Coward

Brazil too, although, from what I get and from people I know the most irritating calls are those from "collecting agencies" that ask for "Maria" (insert any name that isn't mine), and if I reply that I'm not her they ask if I know her... several times a day.

Blocking their many numbers on a cell phone and leaving the land line on mute are the only solutions. Consumer protection agencies cannot do anything because calls from a collector are considered legitimate, even if they're trying to collect from someone that apparently does not exist. There are ways to complain to something like FCC, but then /we/ have to call the collecting agencies and explain everything so they can fix their database,, for one or two days, Then rinse and repeat.

Being old and grumpy I decided to pick up the phone only for calls from people I know and care about. But honestly I can't see how they can make money with it.

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I haven't had much of a problem with it in NZ, nor have I heard anyone complaining about robocalls to cellphones - I suspect the simple preventative that works so well for us is that here it's the caller who pays for a cell call, not the callee.

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The question then is did you talk to yourself?

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@Kernel

Here in the UK too, it's callers who pay, not the callee. I was amazed when I read that the callee pays in the USA. It's almost as if the payments system was designed to benefit robocallers and similar organisations and encourage them to make lots of calls.

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Re: @Kernel

There is a cost to both incoming and outgoing calls. How the customer is billed will vary. Many providers offer services à la carte. No phone spammer is going to be using a residential plan.

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For myself, I rarely receive robocalls. But I'm in France, a socialist-like state with a big nanny government and <insert your favorite cliché here>. Government who takes care of the problem and won't tolerate phone companies going rogue.

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France

When I'm in France, we get at least 2 robocalls a day on our house line - even though the number is registered at bloctel.fr.

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Re: France

I get it here in Germany, but only on the landline. I put the numbers into the blacklist in my router.

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LDS
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"Is this a US only problem or is it also happening in other countries?"

Fully automatic calls are not used here in Italy much - the issue is mostly unsolicited calls using human operators.

Stronger privacy laws makes them more difficult, especially if you are very careful about not checking boxes allowing your data to be used for marketing, and especially, being transferred to others, while not writing your phone number when there's no real need. I receive no calls, but many of my friends do.

Landlines - which numbers were in old telephone directories - until 2011 followed the same rule, then under pressure of telemarketing companies and telco, now you have to opt-out using the "Public Register of Opposition". It works, but some dodgy callers ignore it. Anyway, if they do they are in breach of the law, and you can inform the Authority.

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> Here in the UK, I'm seeing a big rise in speculative calls - made to keep a human operator busy but dropped when he gets another answer.

In the UK you can register with the TPS and then complain to the ICO (who have been known to actually do something about it)

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Re: "Is this a US only problem or is it also happening in other countries?"

@LDS yes, it is mainly spam calls from call centers here, fully automated calls are next to non-existent, because it is illegal.

My bad in my post above, it is the call centers that get blocked.

What is interesting is, we went through a spate of Indian call centers rining up and claiming to be Microsoft, but the only spoke English, not German. Basically, any overseas call is ignored by my wife, as is any number that doesn't appear in our phonebook.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: France

My French mobiles regularly get "ping" calls, the ones that last for a single ring to trick people into calling back. They all have Tunisian country codes, and since I know no-one in Tunisia I now just block all calls with that prefix.

My French landline gets 1-2 unwanted calls a day, and if I don't recognise them (which is true for almost all) I let them go to voicemail. It's rare to get a message left, except the occasional "You have a new message, press *" scams.

Both numbers are registered with Bloctel (the French TPS equivalent), which seems to do nothing much.

That said, I did recently get a message left from the De Vere Group of financial scammers. They'd obviously become fed up with me ignoring their calls to my office (admin instructed not to put them through) and refusing LinkedIn invitations, so some bright spark at DVG had found my home phone number, and left a message complete with her name. I took great delight in formally lodging a complaint with Bloctel for that one, although I have no idea whether it did anything. Pity it was just pre-GDPR.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: France

"even though the number is registered at bloctel.fr."

The most efficient way in France is to be sure you're on the phone company's "liste rouge", which is not the default.

Also, are they robocalls? Ie, not with a real person? The few that get to me are with an actual person talking. When that happens, I interrupt them quickly and demand they provide me immediately with the address of their data controller, which they are by law compelled to do. They say they don't know, I insist on it, and ask an explanation why they're refusing to answer, until they hang up. That has reduced the number of calls to maybe one a quarter, at most.

It's absolutely not the US level, and there are definitely resources for people to help against that annoyance.

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> In the UK you can register with the TPS and then complain to the ICO (who have been known to actually do something about it)

I am registered with the TPS. I did look at complaining to the ICO once but it appeared to involve collecting more data than I remember to note. Doubtless I'll try again when I get another run of similar ones.

I read recently that dialling 1477 should log the illegal call, but BT don't appear to support that.

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I get quite a few to my mobile number, mostly during the day. Generally quite easy to spot and ignore, but I've found during a tough day at work if they call when I'm not busy they can be quite cathartic.

I like to engage with the caller (I mostly get actual calls from humans) and see how long I go before they hang up on me. Polite ones I just waste their time, less polite ones get an unleashing of all the rage I can't let out to customers. I even have a set of notes with good one liners to use since I always struggle to remember them in the heat of the moment. Things like :

"You're a polip on the arsehole of humanity"

"Records, what records? Do you mean the phone book and a magic f**king eight ball?"

"There's only one person who'd had an accident... your mum... 9 months before you were born."

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In the UK I get one call a week maybe. Usually from a London number that hangs up as soon as I make a sound.

No one in my house is over forty so we don't have a landline.

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I wish I had. Next time it happens I will.

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Anonymous Coward

When it cums to US consumer protection

Its all lube, rubbers and chains, but then flaccid sausage.

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The FCC won't act until forced to

IME the FCC will do nothing until there is so much public outrage that they are forced to act appropriately - which may never happen.

Virtually every single week for the past 4 years our company receives robocalls from Google telling us we must update our business listing. (We don't actually have one with Google). After you listen to the long abusive dribble the robocalls advises to select "1" to update or "2" to be removed from the robocall SPAM. No matter how many times we select "2" Google proceeds to call back again a day or two later, week after week, year after year and we have the incoming phone records to prove it. The robocalls have been reported to the FCC numerous times yet nothing is done to stop this abuse. Google has even resorted to using both local and international phone numbers to get businesses to falsely believe a local caller or international person is calling. The FCC is failing the populace.

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The FCC won't act until Pai is out

Yes, you've had the chance . . and you are failing as dismally as the orange turnip is.

And you have form in acting like him as well. In the face of withering criticism, you just go ahead and repeat your self-congratulations like nothing happened.

I was going to end with "Muppet", but that would be cruel and unjust to muppets.

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