2 Major Phone Companies Take ‘Key Step’ in Combating Robocalls

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Are we just months away from the beginning of the end of the dreaded robocall? New technology offers that tantalizing possibility.

Last week, AT&T and Comcast jointly announced that they had successfully made the first-ever “authenticated” calls between separate networks — AT&T Phone digital home service and Comcast’s Xfinity Voice home phone service. The calls were verified using the new SHAKEN/STIR protocol.

If that sounds like technical gobbledygook, rest assured that it is good news for anyone fed up with fielding — or trying to ignore — unwanted phone calls.

AT&T says the successful test means we could be just months away from the rollout of a new caller ID authentication technology that would enable you to know whether a caller is hiding behind a “spoofed” phone number — even if the caller is using a different phone provider.

According to AT&T’s announcement:

“SHAKEN/STIR verification lets consumers know that an incoming call is really coming from the number listed on the caller ID display. While authentication won’t solve the problem of unwanted robocalls by itself, it is a key step toward giving customers greater confidence and control over the calls they receive.

For example, a call that is illegally ‘spoofed’ — or shows a faked number — will fail the SHAKEN/STIR Caller ID verification and will not be marked as verified. By contrast, verification will confirm that a call is really coming from the identified number or entity.”

AT&T and Comcast say they hope to begin offering authentication on calls between networks to customers later this year.

AT&T’s existing anti-robocall features

AT&T’s implementation of SHAKEN/STIR standards is not the company’s first effort to screen or block unwanted calls.

According to the company, it offers “in-network systems that already label or block billions of unwanted or illegal robocalls.” Customers do not need to take any action to get this feature, which is free and automatic.

Mobile customers can also opt to use AT&T Call Protect. This service detects and blocks calls from likely fraudsters and identifies calls from telemarketers and suspected spam calls, among other features. The “Basic” version is free, and the “Plus” version costs $3.99 a month.

AT&T Phone customers can use Digital Phone Call Protect to block up to 100 callers, while traditional home phone customers can block up to 10 callers by pressing *60 after an unwanted call.

Other phone companies that offer anti-robocall features

AT&T isn’t the only company that offers services designed to screen or block unwanted calls.

In fact, the company’s recent announcement comes about two months after wireless carriers T-Mobile and Verizon announced that they were rolling out new anti-robocall technologies, as we reported in “2 Wireless Companies Introduce New Anti-Robocall Feature for Free.”

Additionally, Sprint has offered Premium Caller ID for years. This feature identifies callers who are not already in your contacts, and on some devices it also provides enhanced spam identification features, Sprint says. It costs $2.99 per month.

Sprint customers can also block specific phone numbers through their My Sprint account.

Other ways to fight robocalls today

You don’t have to wait on your phone company to improve its technology for you to start fighting back against robocalls.

As we note in “7 Ways to Quickly Stop Robocalls in Their Tracks,” several technologies are already available that promise to block robocalls.

In addition, a little common sense can go a long way to keeping robocallers from interrupting your life. Simply refusing to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers can help. So can adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry.

Finally, you can choose a phone carrier with a great reputation for identifying spam and scam calls. Last year, Lionbridge ranked carriers according to this criterion, and one came out head-and-shoulders better than the rest, as we reported in “This Wireless Carrier Is Best at Spotting Robocalls.”

How do you combat robocalls? Let us know in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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