By Kati Weis

(CBS4) – Tuesday, Sept. 28 is the deadline for phone companies to take action against spam robocalls, but according to Federal Communications Commission data, more than 3,000 U.S. phone companies aren’t up to par with the FCC’s requirements. Experts say there will be consequences.

(credit: CBS)

All phone companies are required to implement a technology that will identify or block robocalls as they are traveling through the air, before they get connected to your phone. It’s called STIR/SHAKEN, an acronym for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards.

The technology screens calls and identifies numbers that may not be legitimate, allowing the consumer to have better confidence that the call they are receiving is actually coming from the number displayed on Caller ID.

FCC data shows there are still more than 1,906 companies that have not implemented the robocall prevention tech at all, 1,100 companies that have only partially implemented it, and 1,063 companies have implemented it fully. Check your phone company’s compliance, by doing a keyword search here: https://fccprod.servicenowservices.com/.

If companies don’t come into compliance, Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says, “the FCC will cut them off, block their company from being able to originate phone calls.”

She says companies could also face fines.

(credit: CBS)

“The FCC is done asking nicely, they’re done begging, they’re done threatening, it’s go time,” Murray said. “These companies have had almost two years since they knew it was going to be law, and they had a few years before that, that they knew it was coming, so these companies are whining about, ‘oh it’s taking us time to implement this,’ please spare me, because they’ve had time.”

Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office says scam calls were the second-most popular consumer complaints in 2020 in the state, next to airline problems. Since 2014, there have been nearly 35,000 unwanted call complaints to the FCC from Colorado consumers alone.

“People are afraid, because they don’t know that this is illegitimate, and a lot of people have given up personal information, and have had identity theft, because these calls have continued to happen,” Weiser said.

Murray has some tips so you don’t fall victim, too.

“A lot of companies will give you the option to divert any calls that don’t have a Caller ID, to divert that straight to voicemail,” she said. “People just people need to be aware of what their rights are, what they can ask for.”

She says if your phone company doesn’t offer that service, you can also download a call filtering app that will screen your calls for you. She encourages consumers to look for apps that give you control, like the ability to block or divert all suspicious calls, or only medium risk, or only high risk calls. Here are some of her suggestions for a few of the best-known robocall filters:

• YouMail – Free for cell phones for consumers. Filters robotexts into “unknown and spam.”
• Nomorobo – Free for landlines, $19.99 a year for cell phones or $1.99 a month. Filters robotexts too.
• RoboKiller — $39.99 a year or $4.99 a month. Includes filtering for robotexts too.
• Hiya — $14.99 a year or $2.99 a month.

Murray also says if you continue to receive spam calls, report it to the FCC.

“For the phone companies that are not complying, if they get enough complaints about calls that their network is putting through, then the FCC is going to come hunting them down,” Murray said.

(credit: CBS)

To file a complaint regarding illegal robocalls, call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or file a complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint and consumercomplaints.fcc.gov, or contact the FCC at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.

What about those scam texts we all get? There aren’t any laws about those yet, but Murray says talks are underway and we could likely expect some law changes to crack down on those in the near future.

“It’s definitely a problem, the FCC is aware of it, and they are already working actively with some of the larger phone companies,” Murray said. “The FCC is working with them to see how to conquer this next thing before it becomes an even bigger problem.”

Kati Weis