Fraud and Robocalls – More Than an Annoyance

By Alan Percy, Senior Director of Product Marketing, TelcoBridges

This last week, the NY Times Tara Siegel Bernard published an article explaining the trends of Robo calls and their scams are surging.  With the International Telecommunications Week (ITW) conference this week in Chicago, Tara’s timing couldn’t have been any better.

If you recall, a few months back I wrote about the increasingly dire risks to our industry from Robocalls. As I note, the industry must take this seriously, or accelerate our own demise as telephony is abandoned and consumers substitute applications like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and others.

TelcoBridges at ITW LogoTelecom fraud, theft of services and illicit scammers was front and center this week at ITW, with a number of sessions, informational literature and vendors talking about the risks and offering solutions.   The complexity of the problem is evident in there is no “one answer” to fraud, but a multi-faceted defense.

Implementing Secure Caller-ID

During a meeting with Jim Dalton of TransNexus, I learned about the progress of his company’s initiative to prevent fraud and Robocalls with verified caller-ID.  As Jim noted, one of the vexing facets of detecting and eliminating both is verifying the identity of the originator of calling traffic.   Today, the telephone network is based on trust that the originator provides their own valid calling-ID, which is passed along the network for billing and caller-ID displays for the consumer.   There are valid reasons to substitute caller-ID numbers, but the use of neighbor spoofing is a favorite tool to get consumers to answer illicit Robocalls.  If the recipient of a call could know that the caller-ID is indeed valid, it would help them decide whether to trust the call as coming from a neighbor or a Robocall.

As explained in a web article, TransNexus is providing software to implement the use of two protocols (STIR and SHAKEN) to attach an encrypted token to each call header, that can then can be verified by the recipient’s carrier with a public key.   The token would prove that the calling party does indeed own the caller-ID they are passing along with the call.

Facilitating the approach offered by TransNexus integrates into the infrastructure of the carriers, notably the carrier peering Session Border Controllers (SBCs), like TelcoBridges’ FreeSBC (more on this in future articles)

Recent Government Actions

It seems that the SHAKEN/STIR approach is making progress with the international regulators with the FCC declaring a Governance Authority to further define implementations.  More near-term, on January 25th the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared a Compliance and Enforcement decision, requiring that Canadian TSPs implement caller-ID verification by March 31, 2019.

With the regulatory support and equipment-maker investment, we may soon be spared from further unsolicited calls from “Emily at Credit Card Services”.