If you've noticed a recent drop in spam calls, thank the Federal Communications Commission. As of June 30, major US phone providers must use caller ID authentication meant to block spoofed robocalls, costing Americans some $10 billion annually, and help "law enforcement track bad actors," according to the FCC. "We believe this is the most meaningful regulatory action ever taken to attack robocalls," Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog at the US Public Interest Research Group, tells the Detroit Free Press. To cut down on spoof calls claiming to be from a government agency, bank, or business, carriers must verify a customer and phone number before an outgoing call goes through. This is done using the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and the Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs standards technology, or STIR/SHAKEN.
Scam calls may continue on a smaller scale as "some smaller voice carriers and others do not have to implement the change until possibly a year or two from now," per the Free Press. And calls from scammers using verified numbers will likely still get through—as with legitimate robocalls from schools or pharmacies. But "if the display says the call is coming from a 313 area code, it should actually be coming from a 313 area code, not someplace in the Philippines," says Murray. Call-blocking app YouMail describes 22 billion scam calls already in 2021, with about 12 calls per cellphone user in the month of May, per the Free Press and CBS News. Verizon, which implemented the technology by December, says it blocked more than 10 billion calls by late June. Wireless companies that don't comply may face penalties, perhaps including having their calls blocked, per CBS. (Read more robocalls stories.)