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 …

  1. elDog Silver badge

    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.

    1. Rhuadh

      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....

      1. jmch Silver badge

        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?

        1. Fatman Silver badge

          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!

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          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.

    2. steve 124

      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.

    3. gnarlymarley

      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.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        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.

      2. Col_Panek

        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.

    4. GnuTzu Bronze badge

      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.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        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.

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    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.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      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.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        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.

    2. EveryTime Silver badge

      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.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        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".

        1. CelineDion69

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

          scrub alert

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      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.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        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

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. hapticz

          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.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        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!

    4. Spazturtle Silver badge

      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.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        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.

    5. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      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.

      1. mistersaxon

        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.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          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.

  3. Patrick Marino

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

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      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.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        > 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)

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          > 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.

    2. Jamesit

      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.

      1. ps2os2

        The question then is did you talk to yourself?

        1. Jamesit

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

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    4. Kernel

      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.

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        @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.

        1. Ole Juul Silver badge

          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.

    5. Potemkine! Silver badge

      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.

      1. Thought About IT

        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.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: France

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

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          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.

    6. LDS Silver badge

      "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.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        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.

    7. Keith Langmead

      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."

    8. phuzz Silver badge

      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.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When it cums to US consumer protection

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

  5. Big Al 23

    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.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      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.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: 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."

      There IS a way. Make a politically-embarrassing call out of a hostile power (say China) with an ID purporting to come from the White House and make it spout a five-minute tirade of obscenity or whatever such that righteous indignation will be practically guaranteed (or better, make the content criminally culpable as a felony but impossible to prosecute since the call comes from a hostile power). Then, say, call a number of Congresspeople under this strategy. This will likely force President Trump to act because if he doesn't, potentially-felonious calls saying to come directly from him can potentially be construed as "High Crimes and Misdemeanors": justification for impeachment proceedings. So either he'll act to prove them wrong (in the process spurring against that helps us) or he'll open himself up to multiple PR nightmares with midterm elections coming up.

  6. Garymrrsn

    Can't be done

    Even if the government would do the right thing about Idjit Pie, Trump would pardon him. Unfortunately senators and congressmen are too busy counting their stock dividends to be bothered and if the peasants don't like it... "Let them eat cake!"

    (This is a sarcasm icon)

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      "senators and congressmen are too busy"

      Making their own robocalls to pursue re-election.

      Remember when Wheeler told them robocalls to mobiles were not allowed?

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/08/03/fcc_robocall_faq/

      No surprise Pai got his place...

  7. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Watch it burn

    It's all part of Trump's plan to make Mexico pay for his wall (to keep US citizens out).

  8. stiine
    Flame

    robo call numbers

    Last year, I probably received 6 calls a day from non-working numbers in on my area code and exchange (the first 6 digits of a 10 digit U.S. phone number), and since I don't actually know anyone with a number that close to mine, I never answered them. This year, I get anywhere from 4-12 calls per day but they now come from area code+exchange+/-2.

    The only way I know to solve this problem (short of dropping the planet into a black hole) is to force telecoms to require proof of ownership of a number before it can be substituted for outgoing CLID. But I'm not sure how to make that simple enough since there's no reason a company has to acquire all of its numbers from a single company.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: robo call numbers

      We never answer the land line at the house, in fact I'm planning to drop it altogether. If the call on the mobile is not from anyone in my contact list then I don't answer it - sod them all.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: robo call numbers

        Even if it's your wife calling from a stranger's phone because hers is dead (happens all the time where I work: people desperate to make a phone call because they were ditched and their phone's dead--why is everyone's phone dead?)? Or you block a call from a hospital you don't recognize?

        Be careful of unintended consequences.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think a lot (if not most) of these calls are from VOIP

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caller_ID_spoofing

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: I think a lot (if not most) of these calls are from VOIP

      You don't need VoIP to trivially spoof caller IDs: Just a connection to a compliant telco. You can get them from UK telcos, but I suspect there are foreign telcos who ask fewer questions...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think a lot (if not most) of these calls are from VOIP

        "You don't need VoIP to trivially spoof caller IDs: Just a connection to a compliant telco."

        You don't even need that in the USA. All you need is a circuit (as opposed to POTS). Caller ID on a circuit is self reported. The PBX inserts that data when an outgoing call is made. You can make that number anything you want.

        There is a fairly simple solution. Append the circuit ID data to the caller ID data. With the circuit ID the Telco can tell exactly where the call is originating on their equipment. And who is paying for that call. It also makes call blocking much easier as blocking a circuit will block any call from that location no matter what CID is being used.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: I think a lot (if not most) of these calls are from VOIP

          But if you're in an "amenable" country, you can bribe or coerce the phone company to disguise your circuit. That's one reason a lot of malicious call centers are international now: why fight the law when you can just pick the ones you want, or find one where the laws are more "flexible" to your needs?

  10. Ole Juul Silver badge

    I use a blocker

    Call me and a voice says press "number" to connect. The number can be as I set it, or a random one. This seems to do the trick.

    1. Andre Carneiro

      Re: I use a blocker

      Interesting! Tell me more!

      How does it work? How much does it cost? Where do you get it from?

      1. Col_Panek

        Re: I use a blocker

        nomorobo is free for landlines, 2 bucks a month for mobile. You can't record your own voice, just pick a number.

        Don't use it, as my wife considers it a unreasonable imposition for people to hit "1" to be connected.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I use a blocker

      Can you record your own message? I get calls from people who may not speak English, so I would need something which could say "To be connected, press number x" in multiple languages.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: I use a blocker

        I guess that consistent downvote on this thread is from a spammer.

    3. NXM

      Re: I use a blocker

      supervoice.com did this, which came with a dsp-based modem card I had years ago. You could set up multiple voicemail accounts, filters, and all sorts. asterisk does that as well, but you need a proprietary phone interface card.

  11. Potemkine! Silver badge

    FCC - Bis Repetita

    Fistfucking Consumers Conscientiously.

  12. Herby Silver badge

    Need a couple of laws?

    Proposal:

    1) Make phony caller ID illegal.

    2) Require a license for origination of ANY robo calls (there may be some, not many legitimate ones).

    3) Add a new *xx code that says "I believe this is a robo call". If too many pile up with no license, haul them to jail. Lots of enforcement refunds from this.

    4) If the call originates from overseas, kill it immediately. I don't need Windows/Mac/IRS calls.

    5) Require audits against the "do not call list".

    Got any more?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Need a couple of laws?

      You can't implement (4) as people get legitimate calls from relatives overseas. I know I do, and their caller IDs appear on my phone. And I can't wholesale block numbers because new relatives may call me. That said, I use a script I built myself for ncid that blocks ONCE any call that hasn't called before. Since most robocallers and spammers use different numbers each time to get around blacklists, this has significantly reduced the number of calls that get past the first ring, and so far all of them have been legitimate (if it's someone who is trying to reach me personally, they'll just call again), especially as campaign season heats up.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Need a couple of laws?

      And as for the rest, they'll just call internationally from countries not subject to FCC rules and protected by hostile sovereignty.

  13. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    And this is why I use Lenny.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Which one is Lenny, the white one?

  14. LDS Silver badge

    This is a classic example of needed regulation, because the market can't fix itself

    All the actors here makes money, so there's no reason to stop.

    The end-user can't obviously renounce to have a telephone line, so there's no contractual power.

    Only solution is a (truly) independent Authority setting the rules.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: This is a classic example of needed regulation, because the market can't fix itself

      Yeah. Right. NOTHING with any real power will remain independent for long.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a classic example of needed regulation, because the market can't fix itself

      The FCC needs to change from negotiating "acceptable" deals with telcos and instead focus on the needs of consumers.

      Sorry, I'll take my fantasy;s elsewhere...

  15. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Horrible I say, just horrible

    While visiting family in the US, they were getting at least 15 robocalls a day! The robocallers had even gone as far a spoofing numbers in the local exchange.

    Here in NL, I never get these robocalls...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've had the chance to set the agenda…

    since the carriers profit by making bilions, what's a couple of milions extra here and there to facilitate the smooth operation.

    btw, who watches the watchers and their watch(es)?

  17. RobThBay

    Canada ahead of the US (again)

    Oh no!

    We're (Canada) getting anti-robcall tech by 2019. Presidiot Trump will probably use that as an excuse to slap more tariffs on us.

    Shaken/Stir, love the name. Probably named by James Bond fans.

  18. Dr Paul Taylor

    Dont advertise your number

    My residential number is not in the phone book and I only give it to friends, never to companies. So I rarely ever get robocalls; they do happen once in a while because they dial random numbers.

  19. xyz123

    The answer is simple

    Start IMPRISONING the staff of these companies for fraud.

    If you cut off their chances of employing anyone, they will go under as they need THOUSANDS of calls every few hours to find the few gullible idiots willing to give info/cash etc.

    I'd say a 5 year prison sentence per employee/manager is justified. Watch the recruitment dry up in weeks.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: The answer is simple

      And if they're stationed in countries that have no laws on the books for such things?

      1. Nunyabiznes

        Re: The answer is simple

        Simples. Just give me their personal name/address/phone number. I'll need a get out of jail free card for each country I'm going to visit. And a really good Visa (and an anonymous visa) for all the travel.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: The answer is simple

          And if a country NEVER issues GooJF cards by nature?

          1. Nunyabiznes

            Re: The answer is simple

            That's where the no limit Visa and an ATM comes in. Those countries tend to be amenable to brown paper bags full of currency in exchange for a discreet exit.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: The answer is simple

              Not really. Those countries tend to be...introspective if not outright xenophobic. Basically, if you're a foreigner, you're already behind the 8-ball, especially if your target is under the state's protection...

  20. ma1010 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Many people have basically lost the use of telephones

    I feel the pain of everyone on here. I get tons of crap calls all the time. My landline is muted, and I just use it for outgoing calls. Like some others, I use software on my cell. It has Extreme Call Blocker which I have set to send any call not in my address book to voicemail. It's a pain in the ass that we have to put up with this to avoid answering 15+ crap calls a day, but that's how it is Livin' in the USA.

    If the Democrats (or anyone else with the slightest credibility) want to take over the country in the next elections, they could do so if they had a proposed program to fire that cunt Pai and actually REGULATE the Internet and Telecoms providers in a way that would benefit the PEOPLE for a change. But I know this is just fantasy.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Many people have basically lost the use of telephones

      Even if they took over Congress, they don't have enough votes to override a veto; if they did, they could just pass a Joint Resolution and begin the process to outright Amend the Constitution.

  21. Jtom Bronze badge

    I would prefer low-tech solutions to this:

    $100,000 fine per call to someone with whom you do not have an established business relationship.

    Telcos get a 50% ‘finder’s fee’ from the above penalty for every telemarketer it finds, shuts down, and

    produces the number of calls it made.

    Make number-spoofing a form of ID theft, a criminal act with a minimum of 1 year in jail for each

    offense.

    Then, just for a change, actually ENFORCE the above.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      How do you enforce it when most of the calls are international in nature, often protected by foreign sovereignty?

  22. Prof. William Waterman Sherman

    It's the SPOOFING more than the SPAMMING.

    I could screen calls quite efficiently myself, until the majority of nuisance callers began spoofing local numbers. Now, I'm more suspicious of local calls than out-of-state.

    Not sure how spoofing caller-id is done, but putting an end to it would do more than anything else.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It's the SPOOFING more than the SPAMMING.

      To do that, you'd have to find a way to put an end to malicious exchanges. This would probably take a wholesale redo of the telephone system. Caller ID spoofing I think exists because there are legally-mandated reasons for it (eg. witness protection versus organized crime), but as long as legal reason exists, illegal reasons come along to abuse it. It's the old dual-use problem.

  23. fobobob

    It has gotten so bad that I've resorted to just wildcard blocking whole area codes and local exchanges if I do not know anyone from them. I also block numbers from my own exchange so that I can shrug off any of this "neighbor spoofing" crap. I've also had to block a few exchanges that had their first two digits (instead of the usual three) spoofed to me.

  24. DougS Silver badge

    Consumers can (mostly) fix this problem if the FCC won't

    STOP ANSWERING THE DAMN PHONE!

    Seriously, STOP ANSWERING THE DAMN PHONE!

    If it is a number you don't recognize, don't answer. If it is for you, they will leave a message and you can return the call.

    Unless you are a salesperson or something where you will get many calls from numbers that you don't recognize that may cost you money if you don't answer right away and instead let it go to voicemail and call back two minutes later. For every person who simply can't call back two minutes there there are dozens who can.

    What happens to the economics of robocalls if everyone stops answering them? They won't go away entirely, but they'll become uneconomic for most robocallers.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Consumers can (mostly) fix this problem if the FCC won't

      Not necessarily. If the incremental cost for a "blank" call is near-zero, they can just persist, much like Web ads. If a million-to-one turnover rate turns a profit, economics favor the robocaller much like a billion-to-one turnover rate benefits a web ad firm, and they'll just keep going and going, usually hiding behind foreign sovereignty to keep the law off their backs.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's an easy fix, but not perfect

    STIR/SHAKEN + reputation databases would effectively be the analog of DKIM/SPF and bayesian spam filtering in the email world, and would work pretty well. It needs the FCC to push it via mandate or operators to start losing more money due to robocalls than they make connecting them.

    That covers virtually all mobile calls, plus calls made over fiber and cable connections. But: the people most vulnerable to scammers are not on such lines: they are elderly folks on traditional copper landlines. That is a beast of a problem because the old SS7 protocols are not very amenable to plugins to call (say) verification services.

  26. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    La tarifa de mi tia esta a dentro de la capa gruesa de grasa

    I'd like an unphone. All calls go direct to voicemail.

    Here in Canada, the term robocall has overtones of election fraud. The party which committed the fraud was not fined or dissolved, "possibly" because they won that election.

    In Mexico, some 15 years ago, the national legislature passed a law that the call originator must pay. The recipient does not get billed for a call. By law, not by small print in a lengthy contract. It seemed to make an instant difference. Years on, I'd like to know how effective it still is against spam calling.

    Judging from how many spam calls El Reg commentators seem to receive, shouldn't the phone company be paying each of them a monthly subscription, rather than the other way around?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: La tarifa de mi tia esta a dentro de la capa gruesa de grasa

      "In Mexico, some 15 years ago, the national legislature passed a law that the call originator must pay. The recipient does not get billed for a call. By law, not by small print in a lengthy contract. It seemed to make an instant difference. Years on, I'd like to know how effective it still is against spam calling."

      How did the Mexican government bill international calls coming from uncooperative countries, then?

  27. Astara

    filtering on cellphone were callerid is included is easier than 12$/month extra cost CID on landline

    I have 2 lines, one I give to businesses wanting a number, and the other for those that need to contact me. Neither phone is listed. The former doesn't have CID which is $12 extra/month. The latter I pay the extra $12 for.

    Oddly enough, my computer dialed phone spam only comes in on the line that does not have caller ID -- usually at the rate of a few /week to as many as a few/day, starting at 7-8am and ending as late as 7pm. Of side interest, when I had a line problem with static on the line, the phone company began testing (for 10 days before they could send someone) on the line. During that 10 days, I received 0 (zero) calls on the non-CID phone. Coincidence?

    Both lines have had similar probs in the past and they usually just try to find another pair and move me over to it -- that usually gets rid of the problem for another 18+ months. But before the line test period, I had several calls/week (usually selling credit card services) with them starting up again after the line was repaired (it wasn't out-of-order, just had some static on the line and the line w/static wasn't even the number they call in on).

    Since then its back to the same -- junk calls on the no-CID line, and only "allowed" non-profit+political calls on the phone with the $150/year CID service.

    So does the local phone company (PacBell->AT&T) have a financial incentive to not stop robo calls? In my case, I get relief on the unlisted phone with CID. The phone company refused to put a trace on my other line to record the incoming numbers and says it is up to me to pay for CID if I want that protection, er, service. of course even 30 years back phone companies in this area had complete logs of incoming calls, now stored for law-enforcement perusal for years.

    I ask for a 'white list' service but refuse that, they also refuse to block calls w/no callerID unless I pay for callerID. Seems like the phone company has more than a little incentive to make sure everyone pays for CID as part of basic phone service.

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