The Federal Communications Commission will require phone companies to act aggressively against robocalls – or else.

By Sept. 28, phone companies must refuse to accept traffic that is not listed in the Robocall Mitigation Database – which verifies the call is coming from the caller’s actual phone number.

“Protecting consumers from scammers that use robocall and spoofing tools is a top priority,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

“Our message to providers is clear: certify under penalty of perjury the steps you are taking to stop illegal robocalls, or we will block your calls,” Rosenworcel said.

This action by the FCC is happening as robocallers get active again after a lull during the pandemic. Robocalls spiked in February, hitting over 4.6 billion nationwide, a 15.1% increase over January, and continued to climb in March, according to YouMail’s Robocall Index.

Robocalls are on pace to reach 51 billion in 2021, up significantly from 2020, according to YouMail.

“The Robocall Mitigation Database represents one more tool in the FCC toolbelt to help combat robocalls,” Bill Versen, president of communications market at Transaction Network Services (TNS), told Fox News.

“While consumers may not see an immediate impact on the September 28 date the FCC has set for carriers to block incoming traffic from providers not listed in the Database, it will give the agency greater insight into efforts by carriers to prevent illegal traffic from originating on their networks,” Versen said.

Versen added that TNS has already seen an increase in cease-and-desist letters to carriers that are responsible for illegal traffic thanks to the efforts of the Industry Traceback Group, which helps voice service providers trace and identify the source of illegal robocalls.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel made the warning amid a rise in robocalls.
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel made the warning amid a rise in robocalls.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A special focus of the FCC announcement is that certain companies, which were granted an extension to implement a so-called STIR/SHAKEN protocol, must now file detailed reports on their progress toward implementing anti-robocall technology, the FCC said.

The STIR/SHAKEN protocol (STIR stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and SHAKEN for Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) is aimed at tracking calls traveling through interconnected phone networks. The caller ID is “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers. 

“STIR/SHAKEN digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is in fact from the number displayed on Caller ID,” according to the FTC.

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