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Written by: Mike Yang

The FCC has moved one step closer to implementing a system that would prevent robocalls that spoof the caller ID of numbers that don’t initiate outbound calls, a move that could significantly reduce the volume of scam calls reaching businesses and consumers.
The commission on Thursday issued a notice that seems public comment on the concept of a Do Not Originate list, which would establish a set of phone numbers that never are used to initiate calls. This would help prevent fraudsters from spoofing the caller IDs of numbers owned by organizations such as the IRS, FBI, banks, and charities, a tactic that they use regularly to make their phone fraud schemes seem more plausible. The policy would allow carriers to block calls from numbers on the DNO list, something that they’re not allowed to do under FCC rules right now.
The proposal is an outgrowth of work done by the Robocall Strike Force, a group that the FCC and a number of carriers established last year in an effort to find answers to the robocall problem. The group has come up with a number of ideas, but the one that has the best potential to have an immediate effect is the DNO list. A trial of the DNO list concept last fall produced a 90 percent decrease in the number of IRS scam calls. Now, the commission is looking to allow carriers to implement this system on a permanent basis.

“The Commission is asking how to create a safe harbor for providers from FCC call completion rules.”

“This particular type of spoofing has included numbers that purport to be from the Internal Revenue Service, making the spoofed calls especially pernicious. The proposed rules would also allow carriers to continue to block calls upon the request of the subscriber to an originating number, like IRS lines not used for outbound calls. Additional proposed rules would also empower providers to block spoofed robocalls when the spoofed caller ID cannot possibly be valid, including numbers that have not been assigned to anyone yet or purport to be from an area code that does not exist,” the FCC said in a statement on the proposal.
One of the hurdles to this kind of policy has been the FCC’s own rules, which require carriers to complete all calls on their networks. In addition to the DNO list, the commission also is looking for input from the public on the idea of allowing carriers to use their own methods to decide which calls should be blocked.
“The Commission is asking how to create a safe harbor for providers from FCC call completion rules when they rely on objective criteria to identify and block calls that are highly likely to be fraudulent, illegal, or spoofed robocalls. That is, if the carrier can reasonably surmise that a call is a scam call using fake caller ID, carriers could be able to proactively block those calls,” the FCC said.
Image: Chris Isherwood, CC By-sa license.