AT&T and T-Mobile Fight Robocall Menace With New Call-Verification Partnership

Image: T-Mobile

Mobile users are rightfully exhausted with receiving predatory robocalls, and certainly of getting spoof calls attempting to trick them into answering. Companies this year finally started to do something about it—and now, AT&T and T-Mobile say they’ve joined forces to better shield their customers from robocallers.

The companies announced Wednesday that they’ve joined forces on cross-network call authentication geared at weeding out fraudulent calls and better assuring their customers that a caller is who they say they are, rather than a spoofed number or fraudster. The authentication process is based on SHAKEN/STIR standards, a caller ID system advocated for by the Federal Communications Commission.

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Beginning this week, T-Mobile and AT&T customers will see “Caller Verified” language on incoming calls from the other network. T-Mobile said the authentication extends to Metro by T-Mobile customers as well, and that the authentication will work on 12 Samsung and LG devices on its T-Mobile and Metro networks “with more to come in the near future.”

“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,” AT&T said in a statement. “By contrast, verification will confirm that a call is really coming from the identified number or entity. More calls will be verified over time as more device providers participate, and as more network providers implement the standards.”

T-Mobile became the first major carrier to implement the verification system back in January, and the company announced a cross-network partnership with Comcast in April. AT&T and Comcast announced their own call authentication partnership in March.

That companies are actually starting to do something about the very real problem that is robocalls and spoofing is great news—even if it took them long enough to do it. According to data from YouMail, a telecoms services company, a staggering 48 billion robocalls were estimated to be made in the United States last year, up nearly 57 percent from 2017.

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Last year, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote to carriers to demand they, you know, actually do something about this and implement SHAKEN/STIR standards by the end of 2019. (Though the FCC definitely got more than just a few nudges about the robocall and spoofing epidemic itself.) Back in June, Pai pretty succinctly captured how much a pain in the ass these calls are for consumers in a column for USA Today.

“If Americans can agree on anything these days, it’s that they’re fed up with robocalls. The scam calls. The calls from foreign countries at 2 a.m. The deceptive caller ID “spoofing,” which happens when a caller falsifies caller ID information to make it look as if they’re calling from your area code,” Pai wrote. “Unwanted robocalls are far and away the top consumer complaint we get each year at the Federal Communications Commission.”

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Don’t we know it.

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