AT&T has released information showing that with their three-layered protection system, they are now actively blocking over 1 billion spam calls per month or labeling a call as suspected spam which allows the user to decide to answer or not. The service works by verifying all calls to an AT&T number are from the actual number the caller ID says it’s from before it even reaches the customer’s phone to start ringing. The program, called STIR/SHAKEN, is a set of call authentication technologies that work with Verizon and T-Mobile also. All three phone and wireless companies use this new system.
Additionally, AT&T customers can download for free the AT&T Call Protect app that AT&T says gives customers additional fraud blocking and spam call protections. Verizon also has a similar free app that can be downloaded.
While spam and robocalls were down in 2020 during the worst of the pandemic, they are up in 2021 compared to 2019 levels, and some estimate say there will be over 50 billion calls to US phone customers this year. In 2019, there were 45 billion according to the FCC.
The FCC this year began requiring phone companies begin to actively block calls they know to be spam calls, robocalls and calls who’s actual number can not be verified, previously phone companies did not block any calls. A large amount of spam calls come from unverified numbers and “spoof” their caller ID to look like a number you are familiar with, often from your own area code and 3-digit prefix. The problem with spam calls may not go away quickly or without a fight as call centers in India have reportedly added more people and computers to their systems this year and are working to fool the STIR/SHAKEN system. Likewise, Robocallers often use their real numbers and ignore “do not call” lists because there has been historically been little to no enforcement from the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission. These calls often still get through since their numbers are real.