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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: What's happening to stop robocalls?

The I-Team gets to the bottom of what the wireless companies and government regulators are doing about robocalls.

Posted: May 9, 2019 6:40 PM
Updated: May 10, 2019 12:00 PM

Our week-long WAAY 31 I-Team investigation into the plague of robocalls continues to show people in the Tennessee Valley are frustrated with the problem.

The aggravation of those robocalls has many people eager for solutions to stop the annoying calls.

At St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Huntsville, Katherine Harper is answering God’s call serving her flock. “And as a priest, there are people who call me and have my number and need something,” she told us. “So, I have to answer.”

That means answering robocalls.

“They hold up a need that might be there or they work in intimidation tactics,” Katherine told WAAY 31. “That fear strikes that chord of, ‘Oh no. What’s happening? And what do I trust in this case?’ So, it becomes challenging.”

The unwanted calls can make it difficult to turn the other cheek. “Sometimes, it’s frustrating,” she sad. “There’ll be calls from like MediCare. And they’ll say, ‘We know that you need help.’ Sometimes they’ll call for my mother who died 16 years ago. And that kind of pulls at something painful, right, like that loss.”

Katherine’s thankful her smartphone offers up at least some comfort. “I’m grateful that sometimes my phone even tells me that it’s a ‘scam likely’ call and I ignore those. And that’s helpful.”

T-Mobile told WAAY 31 it’s flagged more than ten billion calls as scam likely and blocked more than a billion scam calls over the past two years. T-Mobile was the first wireless carrier to give free scam ID and block services to its customers. Both AT&T and Verizon told us they now offer those services, too.

Many of the safeguards are automatic but give you options to turn them on or off.

That’s just the beginning of the fight against robocalls.

Alabama’s top cop, Steve Marshall, announced in December that he was joining dozens of other attorneys general in the multistate fight against robocalls. They’re pushing the FCC and phone carriers for faster action to better-use technology to stop the calls.

The Federal Communications Commission told WAAY 31 it’s actively working on a solution. It’s recommended a technology-based plan of attack called STIR/SHAKEN. The robocall-fighting technology gives phone numbers an electronic fingerprint that can be traced. If a number isn’t authentic, it won’t go through.

T-Mobile told WAAY 31, last month, it launched a feature of the technology in a service it calls “Caller verified.” Most phone carriers will comply with the new standards throughout this year. Experts say it may stop many of those annoying robocalls that chip away at your peace.

“Something little can set off other painful things and to just be present in the moment of I can end this and get back to what is more important,” Katherine told us. She reminds us this too shall pass.

“Sometimes, I make sure that I’ve updated my number on the Do Not Call Registry and then let it go to that and then have hope that one day the phone calls will stop.

Coming up Thursday night on WAAY 31 news at 6, the I-Team takes a look at what the future might hold for robocalls.

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