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Senate Testimony: Combatting Caller ID Scams


USTelecom Vice President Kevin Rupy provided an update on the latest technologies consumers can use in the frustrating battle against phone scams. Rupy told a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing that a broad-based public-private effort over the past year has focused exclusively on trying to solve telephone abuse.

One goal is to develop more secure forms of caller identification authentication to try and eliminate fraud through caller-ID spoofing. Rupy also described services companies offer to reduce the number of fraudulent calls. Unfortunately, caller ID spoofing is a common practice for scammers and can cause substantial harm to consumers, including seniors, Rupy said.

It’s difficult to fight back on a technical level because it is not yet possible to authenticate the identity of the callers behind traditional and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone numbers, Rupy said. But last summer, a standards body created a formal working group focused on creating a secure caller ID for IP-based communications. This group has held several workshops where experts work together on approaches for mitigating telephony abuse.

The Federal Trade Commission is actively working with industry on these problems and updated the committee on the results of a 2012 “challenge” to find a technical solution to robocalls, which has led to new products and services for consumer.

Public policies that foster investment in broadband and encourage the complete transition to IP-based voice services will speed development of hasten tools the industry needs to attack illegitimate robocalling and caller ID spoofing, Rupy told the committee.

USTelecom recently publicized services some members offer consumers to help mitigate the problem.

Consumers subscribing to Verizon FiOS Digital Voice service can use the company’s “Do Not Disturb” feature. The service prevents some or all incoming calls from ringing on a customer’s phone, and can be activated for a set period of time, or left on indefinitely.

A similar service known as “No Solicitation” is also available through CenturyLink. Like the FiOS Digital Voice offering, consumers can also set up a privileged list of accepted callers who will automatically bypass the solicitor screening. This privileged caller list allows up to 25 entries, which can be entered by using either an area code (thus, allowing all calls from the identified area code), area code and prefix (allowing calls from the local exchange), or specific ten-digit telephone numbers

AT&T offers a similar call screening service through its U-verse voice service product. That service can be activated to allow a customer to accept calls from up to 20 designated numbers, while directing any remaining calls to a standard message. Because the offerings and capabilities of companies are different, Rupy told the committee that consumers should contact their respective service provider in order to identify available resources.

For more information on spoofing, visit the USTelecom website.

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