Why U.S. Robocall Hell Seemingly Never Ends

from the your-car-warranty-has-expired dept

According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were 3.6 billion U.S. robocalls placed last December, or 115 million robocalls placed every single day. That’s 4.8 million calls placed every hour. Despite the periodic grumble, it’s wholly bizarre that we’ve just come to accept the fact that essential communications platforms have been hijacked by conmen, salesmen, and debt collectors, and we’re somehow incapable of doing anything about it.

Every 6-12 months or so the federal government comes out with a “new plan to finally tackle robocalls,” yet the efforts only frequently make a small dent in the problem. One reason why is that each time the federal government unveils a new plan, it focuses exclusively on scammers. Said plan (and therefore the entire press coverage of said plan) discusses robocalls as if it’s only something velour track suit clad dudes in Florida strip malls are engaging in.

Folks like Margot Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has testified before Congress for years about how the biggest robocallers are often legitimate companies, usually selling you services you don’t want, or harassing people they know can’t pay overdue bills with sometimes hundreds of calls per day. The group notes that as of last month, scammers continued to make up the minority of overall robocalls:

The issue has long been that the marketing and financial industries doesn’t want any of this to change, and their influence on Congress, regulators, and policymakers generally means that solutions carve out large loopholes in rules that weaken their effectiveness. And their influence on the courts has consistently eroded what agencies like the FCC can do about much of it. Last April, a Supreme Court ruling (Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid) effectively nullified the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s ban on autodialed calls and texts to cell phones without your consent.

So folks like Saunders keep pointing out while we have a patchwork array of rules that sometimes limit pre-recorded robocalls, the rules governing annoying spam texts or live robocalls are negligible at best:

“A lot of the live calls that are survey calls and debt collection calls to cell phones that are so annoying to people are made with automated dialers,? Saunders said. ?There is at the moment no way of controlling those calls unless the called party individually blocks the caller.”

The onus is, as it often is in the case of patchy and flimsy U.S. consumer protection, shifted entirely to the consumer to tackle the problem themselves. Especially in a country where Congress struggles to pass any law that might dent the revenues of the nation’s biggest and most politically powerful companies (see: net neutrality, privacy, climate, etc.). The lobbying of these companies does more than just weaken court and regulatory oversight. It has resulted in a discourse where robocalls are framed as only a problem involving scammers, not everyday companies (note the heavy presence of telecoms and banks on the list above) that utilize many of the same dodgy tactics as the scammers.

While that broader problem isn’t changing anytime soon, one immediate area that could be cracked down on are so-called “gateway providers,” who act as a proxy here in the U.S. for robocalls originating overseas:

“Gateway providers, and other originating providers, use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to transmit voice and text messages over the internet to American landlines and cell phones. As an entry point into the American telephone network for foreign callers, gateway providers and the service providers that accept calls from the gateway providers are in a unique position to arrest the flow of harmful scam calls and illegal robocalls. Many illegal robocalls, especially the worst scam calls, originate overseas and are passed through U.S. gateway providers to complicit intermediary providers and then transmitted to American telephones.”

That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress. Pressure to force wireless carriers to speed up deployment of technology that can help block robocallers who spoof their phone numbers (like SHAKEN/STIR) have netted some results. But we’re still drowning in robocalls thanks to loophole-filled rules, inconsistent oversight, a corrupted court system, and a generalized fear of holding large, legitimate robocallers accountable for doing too little to protect their customers. Truly fixing the problem will require doing something U.S. policymakers don’t like doing: holding larger companies accountable for failure, and crafting laws that aren’t utterly polluted and defanged by lobbyist influence.

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Comments on “Why U.S. Robocall Hell Seemingly Never Ends”

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Bill says:

I will issue Google rare praise for this one – since I switched to Google Voice and started giving out ONLY my Google Voice number to anyone, I now get almost no robocalls. Google auto-blocks most of them, and the rest of them are handled by Google’s automated call screening.

If you’re drowning in robocalls, use Google Voice.

Anon says:

Re: Blocking

I got a call in the wee hours of the morning -caller ID said Luxembourg. It seems to me that the biggest problem is caller ID spoofing by the IRS who are sending their squad to arrest me, or Paypal wanting to send me a refund.

A real simple solution would be to make caller ID spoofing illegal. Phone companies could also simply block calls from internet VoIP gateways originating outside the country with ID’s from a gateway that did not match the region of the caller ID phone number. Also, give users the ability to block whole countries, so I can’t get calls from Nigeria or Uzbekistan.

If Bob from Cleveland wants to call me, the caller ID number should be from a USA VoIP gateway. Or else, he should change VoIP providers if he’s a legit caller and gets blocked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Blocking

For toll-free numbers, they need to know the actual number of the caller in order to bill the recipient correctly. How easy it would be to adapt this to stopping junk calls I don’t know.

Wikipedia says "Residential subscribers can obtain access to ANI information through third party companies that charge for the service". And these days, the information is realtime and it’s actually not all that expensive or difficult to get your own toll-free number. It’d be kind of funny to give a customer service person a 1-833 number when signing up for something.

DebbyS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blocking

I don’t know about the spoofing, but I enjoy watching Scam Baiters on YouTube. Many of them, via phones, record their calls and are able to enter a call center (no matter where it is) and pretty much destroy the operation. Other heroes hope to teach innocent call receivers how to detect scammers and thwart them (at least to hang up). Another popular Baiter fights back via email and he is very clever. Still another woman Baiter can speak several languages (including Hindi and Spanish), and she can cry and make scammers feel bad briefly, even if they fall in love with her (or say they have). If we legally can’t stop scammers (even the ones calling on behalf of "local" police or want to renew car insurance when one has no car — or a fleet of them), we can, with a bit of prep, waste a lot of scammers’ time and to them, time is money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Blocking

The other problem is the phone companies don’t care, they have no skin the in the game. In fact the more calls being made, they more money they make.

On the Internet, if your network is hosting spammers, there are plenty of blacklists and blocklists circulating – which will invite other providers to bit-bucket all of your outgoing mail to their subscribers.

Maybe phone companies who knowingly allow illegal robocalling, harassment of debtors or other network abuse do need to be liable if the original caller cannot be located (or is outside the jurisdiction), if the telco knew the network was being abused and was deliberately refusing to act. My guess is that they’d very suddenly want to "know your customer" and would very quickly start cracking down on their dodgy resellers if they were actually responsible for their action (or inaction) in these matters.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blocking

I agree that caller ID spoofing should be illegal. But more than that, there should be some financial disincentive for companies to pass on the spoofed caller ID. They can’t honestly believe that thousands of calls per hour isn’t a call center. Local carriers should get fined for perpetuating the fraud. Attempting to hold a call center from the other side of the world liable will not stop them.

DebbyS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blocking

I never say "Hello?" or anything with a "ha" sound, because some computers listen for that. I say "This is Debby. Who are you?" That confuses robocalls enough that they soon hang up after I’ve insulted them for never tasting chocolate or making any money. Some robos start talking immediately upon a pick up, so I may start pressing numbers, which confuses them greatly. If I decide to talk to them, they usually panic(?) and hang up. If they can’t be stopped, they can lose money as people figure out the scams.

TaboToka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

use Google Voice.

Two issues with GV: you can lose your number at any time, and they don’t allow you to forward texts to your phone.

  1. You can lose your number:

    If you see the page linked below, then your use of the Google Voice service has been suspended. You will not be able to use the Google Voice number, nor port it out, unless you click the "contact us" link on that page, and Google agrees to lift the suspension. If Google denies your appeal, there is nothing else you can do. You can no longer use Google Voice. See: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/40039

  2. You can’t receive texts directly on your phone, so you have to view them in the Voice app.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"If you’re drowning in robocalls, use Google Voice."

Depending on your phone OEM you may already have the option of activating the spam blocklist. Alternatively download a call handler with such a list.

On a good day that will deal with 9 out of 10 calls. Just be sure to give back to the community by flagging spam which gets through the filter as such.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Nathan F (profile) says:

Here is what I do. All the robocalls are done with automated dialers that work from list of numbers and those lists get passed around and sold.

When a call comes in that your caller ID says could possibly be a spammer or you don’t recognize the number, pick up. As soon as you pick up hit the mute button. What usually happens is that the automated message that starts up is listening for someone to say something on the other end, then it goes into its speech. If you mute your mic right away the machine listening on the other end assumes it is a dead line and hangs up after 10 seconds.

If there is in fact a real person on the other end they will usually pipe up and say something after it stops ringing and they get an empty line. You can then unmute and see who the hell is calling you over just sending a text message.

Breedon Dissent says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are automated call blockers you can get. I see at least one comes with a pre-programmed list of calls to block. I think it would really have to be dynamic though to keep up with the spam callers. If you’re getting hit by them alot it might be worth getting. I hear just by responding with a dead line that it decreases the number of calls.

But I totally agree with the thrust of the article. It’s absurd with today’s communication tech that it can be rendered virtually unusable by greedy jerks. And if the financial industry thinks they’re getting a benefit from excessive calling, they’re some of the ones who’s calls I’m not taking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you’re on unbundled VoIP, it’s fairly easy to send the garbage to jollyrogertelephone.com or TrueCNAM or whatever. A smartphone with mobile data might be able to use NomoRobo or some other app to import a dynamic blacklist.

That still leaves the bozos who send fraudulent caller ID to spoof their number as (your number with the last 4 digits replaced with a different random number each spamcall) – and the "only answer callers who are already in your address book" works wonders for personal telephones and not at all if you’re a commercial business.

And yes, there are ways to deliberately waste the time of nuisance callers. Not a good idea if you pay big bucks to receive calls (for instance a prepaid Telus mobile which isn’t on any of their bullspit monthly plans runs C$0.60/minute, twice that if you’re long distance from wherever they think they’re calling you) but it works on penny-a-minute Internet phones like voip.ms

The most effective robocall block? Treat incoming calls with the same we-refuse-to-connect-you-to-a-live-person disdain that the corporations routinely dish out on consumers: "for sales press 1, for service press 2, if you’re sick of punching in endless irrational numbers just to get a live answer press 3141592653…" and let the robot try to navigate that rat maze.

Pity to see something which looked like a useful invention in the 1870’s reduced to this, but it was a slice while it lasted. 🙁

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve used the idea of "pick it up and put it on mute" for years. I like to think the same as you- that putting it on mute tells the robo call that it reached a dead number. Hopefully their computer will remove my phone number from their system.
However, some scammers like the "support our police" use real people who say hello, which causes me to say hello, so then start in on their sales pitch.
But at least putting it on mute may stop the robo callers.

Jordan says:

While annoying...

Honestly, who falls for the scam ones? I do not answer my phone unless I recognize the number of expect a call. They go straight to VM and then deleted.

What the scammers are doing is training people not to answer the phone.

Also they make it so obvious with calls from the most obscure places that I have no business dealings, friends, or potential people I know in those places.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: While annoying...

More it is a tragedy of a failed regulatory system, as other countries manage to significantly reduce the problem. Here in the UK, I get less than two spam/scam calls a year on a two phones, a landline and mobile.

The US political system has been captured by corporate interests, and it will take voters choosing to vote for other than democratic or republican candidates at all levels to fix it.

TaboToka (profile) says:

Re: While annoying...

I do not answer my phone unless I recognize the number of expect a call.

I have found it is hard to know when someone is going to call. For example, I recently put out a request for bids to build a fence. I start getting calls within the hour, but I still might get some a day later. Every single one of those numbers is unknown to me.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: While annoying...

"Honestly, who falls for the scam ones?"

Enough people for it to be worth them continuing to do them. If there weren’t profitable, the practice would stop immediately.

"Also they make it so obvious with calls from the most obscure places that I have no business dealings, friends, or potential people I know in those places."

Then, you’re not the moron they’re targeting. It’s the same with spam emails – they deliberately put in spelling mistakes and other tells to ensure that they naturally filter out anyone who can understand they’re being scammed upfront. They only want to stupid and the tech clueless because they’ll be wasting their time trying to scam the others.

Discuss It (profile) says:

Silent ringtone

I use assigned ringtones. If it’s in my phone book, it gets a sound I select. The default ringtone is silence. Still haven’t figured out a good strategy for drunk calls from the bosses. Those folk drink like it’s mother’s milk and the will call at 4am. No, I can’t turn it off, I’m on call 24/7.365 – and that should be illegal. Hire people if it’s so blank important.

Discuss It (profile) says:

Re: Re: Silent ringtone

Two hours overtime every time you are called, plus overtime for actual hours worked

Sorry, I don’t see a sarcasm tag on that? I’m in the US. Employers fully expect and demand and WILL fire you for not working free overtime. A few years ago, I was on vacation, something died, I had to fly back at my own expense on a ticket that cost 5 times what my "normal" ticket cost, and got formally reprimanded and written up for turning it in as an expense. Didn’t get paid for it just to be clear.
Yes, I did get another job. Same same.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Silent ringtone

Here in Europe, that would not only be expressly illegal but the company would also face severe penalties if you were to face an employment related consequences for not coming into work on your scheduled vacation time.

I’m glad you found something else, but it’s obviously unacceptable that whatever poor soul replaced you might face the same problems. Although, if the company is badly enough run that there’s only one single person who can fix a problem, and that person has to physically be there on site, then hopefully they stand to collapse at some point in the future where it’s not possible for that person to be there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Silent ringtone

Employers fully expect and demand and WILL fire you for not working free overtime.

I hear it’s a pretty good time to be looking for a new job. And for what it’s worth, I’ve told panicking bosses I’m not going to work a weekend; they got some other suckers to do it, and I got a raise (and they attempted to promote me when I handed in my resignation some months later). These things are hard to predict, but good people are hard to find, so if you’re any good and you get fired for not taking shit from them, well, maybe it’s for the best.

TaboToka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I do this also! Twins!!

The method fails because all of the calls I get now are spoofed from a different number every time. I’ve lost track of how many car warranties, cruises or Hilton vacations I’ve won, each one from an entirely new number.

Just for S&G, every once in a while, I’ll call the number back. Every single time I get the SIT + "This number is not in service"

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My blocklist on my phone is currently 2500+ numbers long

Problem is that so many of these numbers are fake caller ID injected, with some random digits, by the scammers. Blocking them does no good.

I get robocall scammers from local government numbers, among others. Since my office is downtown in the seat of government, local numbers (even if fake) are often assigned to govt offices. As a result, when the fake caller ID system injects a seemingly local number, there is a good chance that it is a govt number.

Anonymous Coward says:

Security at scale is also problematic.

(Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid)

It would have been beside the point in the article, but there is a point to the Supreme Court’s decision. The TCPA has a particular definition of autodialer, and Facebook’s messaging system didn’t qualify.

The plaintiff (Duguid) was getting texted regularly for a Facebook account he hadn’t set up and didn’t want. This was an account verification system, wherein if someone accesses an account from a new location, Facebook sends a security alert to the attached number. … and someone had set Duguid’s phone to be the attached number. … and Facebook refused to act on the information that the security number was wrong.

Allowing the phone to control the account is a security failure. Prohibiting the phone from controlling the account is also a security failure.

Facebook screwed up in failing to resolve the paradox.

justme says:

not a real issue

if you have an android phone and use automatic call screening this is simply not an issue. also you can use manual screening. a simple rule of phone usage is if you don’t know the number don’t answer — in fact just terminate the call on the first ring. if it’s actually an important call the person can leave a message. i’ll answer my phone only for about 3 people — everyone else gets to leave a message. i rarely receive any calls from unknown numbers because of auto call screening. that being said i hate the concept of these robocalls.

Anonymous Coward says:

harassing people they know can’t pay overdue bills with sometimes hundreds of calls per day.
"A lot of the live calls that are survey calls and debt collection calls to cell phones that are so annoying to people are made with automated dialers,” Saunders said. “There is at the moment no way of controlling those calls unless the called party individually blocks the caller."

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act already prohibits "Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number" and "Failure to cease communication upon [written] request", among other things. One may find it easier to pay off a debt after collecting $1000 in statutory damages from the debt collector. Perhaps some lawyer could find a way to do this in bulk, against known-bad collectors, for a cut of the money. ("Contacting a consumer known to be represented by an attorney" is also illegal.)

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I used to do collections, and I’ve been in collections.
The problem is that the calls go across state lines, and a local lawyer can’t practice in every state. And most of us in debt can’t pay a lawyer up front, so they only take cases with a high potential to cover their time and costs on a contingency basis. They can send a letter to a small company, like where I used to work, and get them to stop, for a small fee, or a favor. Maybe, if they demonstrate they have evidence of something really, really egregious, a small company will pay a couple of bucks to make the matter go away. But big companies like Citi, Santander, Capital One, it’s not even concerning as a mosquito to get a letter from a lawyer.
Plus, the different dialing systems that are generating so many calls often have multiple unassigned numbers that appear on caller ID which can’t be traced, or show up as unknown, and sometimes have similar but not the exact same name, which makes it nearly impossible to prove that all the calls were generated from the same company. And if you don’t answer, and they don’t leave a message in your vm, they can try you at that number until they leave a message or talk to you, and they can call all the other numbers to reach you as well.
If you want to get them to stop calling, you gotta talk to them to get the address to send the request in writing, and good luck getting the correct one and proof they actually received the notice. And you might stop the calls from one collection agency but most big lenders use several agencies even before they sell off the debt, and what occurs with your account while being serviced by an agency doesn’t necessarily transmit back to original creditor.
The laws aren’t effective for the reality.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps some lawyer could find a way to do this in bulk, against known-bad collectors, for a cut of the money

Not for a cut of the money. That would be excess work, since you have to set up contingency arrangements. It would also be insufficient pay, since even at 33% or 40% of statutory damages of $1000, that is not really going to cover the work involved.

Instead, take note that 15 USC 1692k(a)(3) provides a fee-shifting provision. The corresponding statutes in your state (in which I am not licensed) may also provide for fee-shifting.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The greatest app ever, will be the one that forwards all of your spam calls/texts to your representatives.

I mean perhaps they are unaware of how the rest of us are suffering. They all get their own personal connections in the home offices of so many companies even a special number where comcast says they will be right out and they mean it, day or night, rain or shine, no waiting between 8 and 4.

One knows that our leaders live in protected little bubbles so far removed from what we experience so maybe we need to remind them that the little people are fed up & here is a mile in our shoes… start walking.

Anonymous Coward says:

[quote]the biggest robocallers are often legitimate companies, usually selling you services you don’t want, or harassing people they know can’t pay overdue bills with sometimes hundreds of calls per day{/quote}

The problem with this sort of harassment is that the victims eventually will disconnect their number to get this to stop. The carriers wait ninety days (or some other arbitrary amount of ‘aged disconnect’) then reissue the number to some other subscriber. That subscriber then gets DDoS’ed with this spam, even though they have no tangible connection to the original victims. Disconnecting the number only repeats the cycle. If it were lawful to go to the debt collector’s office and burn the building down with the perpetrators trapped inside, that might reduce the problem, but most jurisdictions prohibit this because the smell of burning garbage would only add pollution to already-contaminated urban areas. Fining these people won’t work, it’s merely a "cost of doing business" to them – if they even ever pay. Unless governments are willing to shut down operations, seize assets and records, throw people in jail or even hold the original creditor who sold the debt civilly and criminally liable for the conduct of fly-by-night debt buyers? Nothing will change, as debtors as a group tend not to have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting idle which could be used to engage senior counsel to issue restraining orders – and the politicians are more interest in appeasing the merchant community than in responding to individuals who got them elected.

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Take a look at the companies on the list, those aren’t debt buyers, those are original creditors.
And there aren’t that many fly by night debt buyers, you have to have enough cash to pay for a portion of the debt, and pay for skilled collectors to work the accounts, plus compliance and security for handling PII and banking info. A lot of creditors pay third party collection agencies to work their defaults before charging off and selling the account.
I won’t deny there are lots of unscrupulous collection agencies and collectors they employ- because I have seen some things. But they really are a necessary part of the process. If creditors couldn’t collect enough of the defaulted debt, and find people to sell it to, then the lending criteria would be too strict for people to get the loans and credit they really need, like for a mortgage, or a car, or to cover an unexpected emergency. Utilities would all require huge deposits, automatic draft payments,or even a paycheck attachment. Yes we should fight the really unethical stuff, but we have to be careful not to make problems worse in a whole new way.

Doug Wheeler (profile) says:

Scammers = minority? I doubt it.

scammers continued to make up the minority of overall robocalls

I seriously doubt this, and the list doesn’t support this. Consider this scenario: 50 legit companies each make 1 million robocalls, and 1 million scammers each make 100,000 robocolls. Which is the majority? The legit companies with 50 million calls or the scammers with 100 BILLION?

You can’t compare individual companies – you have to aggregate the numbers to compare legit with scammer/spammers.

Doug Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Scammers = minority? I doubt it.

Just to clarify, my example is made up just to demonstrate the uselessness of measuring which individual companies generate the most robocalls. If you look at the actual stats (follow the link in the article), scammers and telemarketers make up 55% of robocalls overall. Scammers alone, make up 32% of the robocalls, the LARGEST segment, not the minority.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve had four numbers of mine rendered unusable by debt collectors and robocalls for no fault of my own. Three were VoIP, one was Freedom Mobile – and all were numbers which had been through "aged disconnect" and had been reissued by the various carriers. Effectively, this is a form of DDoS – maybe not at the same volumes as the Internet/WWW DDoS (as it’s wasting the time of a real person, instead of an Apache server, it takes far less to make a number unusable. Multiple fly-by-night debt buyers each making three robocalls a week every week for a year to an individual mobile telephone will get most subscribers to disconnect the service, for instance.)

If the number’s VoIP, there are services like jollyrogertelephone.com which can mitigate some, but not all of this. I had a problem with a debt collector, NCRI, which was based in Ontario but which kept buying different numbers from Iristel or its dodgy resellers in different cities (so they’d pretend to be in some other Ontario town one minute and in Saskabush the next) in an attempt to evade CRTC regulations that require that robocallers identify themselves on CID and that they identify why they’re calling (interesting Catch-22: provincial laws on debt collection here prohibit disclosing debts to uninvolved third parties, federal law prohibits robocalls which evade disclosure of the purpose of the call, so that debt robocall is probably illegal; the Québec government asked the CRTC to rule on this issue and the response was, if the debt buyers don’t like the robocall law, then they would have to dial manually instead of continuing to violate regulations).

One particular number which I had to give up sticks in my mind. It was getting repeated calls for the previous subscriber, to whom I have no connection. The three callers I remember are:

  • The local school, to which the lady which used to own the number was sending her child
  • The municipal subsidised housing for the poor, who had her (and presumably her child’s) name on a wait list for a roof over their heads
  • A certain subprime "rent-to-own" place whose name rhymes with "sleazyhome" and who would not stop calling.

My guess? The subprime lender or vendor would not stop calling, even though their intended victim has nothing. The mum, inundated with this garbage, disconnected the number. The city called to offer affordable housing, and could not do so because the number was disconnected or reassigned… and somewhere out there a mother and child is now without an affordable place to live.

That’s what you’re defending when you defend debt buyers or debt collectors.

And yes, these numbers will continue to be reissued ad infinitum. There are some area codes (usually the original code for the area, such as 416 or 613 for Ontario), which are in short supply for new numbers. The incumbent landline provider has lots, but new entrants are often forced to recycle disconnected numbers or move their subscribers to some other area code as the overlay of the week.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Either you’re paying to receive calls or you’re paying a higher monthly rate in return for flat-rating those calls. Either way, they’re not truly free. The only exception is if you have some sort of high-premium number, +1-900-976-SCAM style, where the people calling you are dinged some insane amount and you receive a kickback.

Other countries (ie: not US, Canada, China, Hong Kong) have mobile telephones which are in special area codes where the caller pays airtime. The same is not true stateside, where numbers are portable from wireline to wireless to VoIP to whatever and the called party pays airtime, one way or another.

The flat-rate plans hide the problem. They still cost money, though.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, chalk that down to just another way in which Americans are being fleeced, I suppose. I wonder – what’s the actual benefit to the consumer for the number being portable in this way? I can port my number between mobile providers, to VoIP, etc., if I wish, free of charge, but there’s no scenario I can think of where this would need to be done regularly. What’s the excuse for treating it as if it is a regular thing there? I can maybe imagine that it’s needed in rural areas where regular cell service might be spotty, but for the average city dweller?

Another Kevin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

US carriers often offer introductory rates to new customers and then overcharge renewing customers, so in many areas, switching carriers every couple of years is a major saving in cost to the customer. Before number portability was required, the carriers had you over a barrel, since few people are willing to change their contact number that often.

Rekrul says:

I keep getting the "Your vehicle’s warranty is about to expire." scam. Strangely, they didn’t seem interested in continuing when I told them that I have a Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT). They’ve also hung up on me when I asked why they needed me to tell them the make and model, or when I asked which one and told them that I have two vehicles. For the record I don’t actually own any.

Gee, I wonder what would happen to the average person if they set up a robodialer and set it to repeatedly call some of these companies who don’t spoof their number…

ECA (profile) says:

Long been said

For all the graft spread over Much of politics, if everyone just delt with themselves, it would be cheaper for the corps.

Unless everything they are doing is Cheap to do, paying off the Politics and others Should be to expensive. But its not. Either the politics is CHEAP, or the corps are making to much money to stop.

Prices always going up for things, but why? To help pay the politics? THATS gotta be wrong, doesnt it?
It cant be we are over paying for everything.
It cant be we are over taxed.
It cant be that politics makes money(its not supposed to)
It cant be infrastructure is built with backdoors, after combining all the items into 1 Backbone.

The corps get our money, then get more money from the Gov.(from our pocket) and still the politicians get more money?
Isnt that called a Vicious circle(s)?
And still not much happens to Adjust and upgrade the system? Any of those systems.

John85851 (profile) says:

It's all about the money

If there were 3.6 billion robo calls made December and the telecom companies charged 5 cents per call as a connection fee, that’s $180 million just to connect the call.

Then the telecom companies could charge their customers $4.95 a month for a cal screening service. Des anyone know how many people have purchased subscriptions to AT&T’s screening app?

Then the telecom companies could charge companies another fee to let their calls get past customers’ screening apps.

So why in the world would any telecom company do anything to stop this flow of money?

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