Scam calls have existed for years and robocalling technology, which allows computers to dial and make pre-recorded messages, has made fraud easier and more common. Between October 2020 and September 2021, the Federal Trade Commission received 5 million complaints for calls that violated the Federal Do Not Call (DNC) protocol. That’s in one year alone. Keep in mind, the figure is only a fraction of the unsolicited calls being reported. The actual number of unsolicited robocalls is estimated at 4.6 billion per month.
With that in mind, service providers and mobile carriers have understandably implemented a variety of anti-spam and anti-spoofing solutions. In some cases, this has resulted in phone numbers being incorrectly labeled as spam. While we wholeheartedly support the industry’s efforts, we have seen spam labels being erroneously applied to legitimate calls. This is being done by wireless providers via consumer phone apps not by Signalmash.
First, what is Scam or Spam Likely?
In an attempt to improve customer experience, mobile carriers launched anti-spam features which are enabled in most mobile handsets. When someone calls a mobile device, the mobile carrier checks the number against its database of reported scam numbers. If the source matches a reported scam number, the person being called sees a message that says “Scam Likely” alongside standard caller ID. The user can then decide whether or not to answer the call.
In addition, mobile carriers and handset manufactures allow customers to opt-in to a spam block feature that prevents all Scam Likely calls from reaching the user’s phone. Third party apps also allow smartphone users to detect, report and block scam calls. Lastly, the mobile carriers are working with data analytics companies to identify patterns that indicate possible unlawful telemarketing and then label calls as spam likely, scam likely, or fraud.
While Scam Likely Caller ID features do help users avoid potential scams, they sometimes mark legitimate calls incorrectly. To understand why, let’s take a look at what causes a call to be identified as Scam Likely or Spam Likely.
What carrier’s spam or scam blocking services look for?
To identify possible scam calls, mobile carriers look for two main traits associated with fraud and robocalling: a high volume of calls originating from the number and existing complaints filed on the number. This means numbers marked with “Scam Likely” tend to be either numbers that originate a large amount of calls or numbers that have a record of being reported by recipients as scams.
The industry has successfully blocked many illegal calls. However, legitimate calls are being blocked. There are three reasons:
- The algorithm fails to distinguish between legal and illegal robocalls: Because the system only looks for high-volume originating numbers, the service may mark legal calls as scam or spam. Most pre-recorded message dialing is illegal. Examples of legal pre-recorded messages include one-time passcodes, notification messages from your doctor, pharmacy, or schools, and calls from non-profits. In all cases, telemarketing or pre-recorded message calls can only be made with a person’s “express” consent.
- Somebody “spoofing” or hijacking your number: Most high-end phone systems allow users to set their caller ID to any set of numbers. This makes it easy for bad actors to make it appear that a call is being placed from your phone number when it’s not the case. The industry has implemented a new technology called STIR/SHAKEN, which uses an encrypted token to match the caller ID with the registered user. Signalmash uses STIR/SHAKEN for all calls that originate from our network. However, STIR/SHAKEN has not been fully deployed on all networks within the US. Ironically, the same carriers who are labeling the calls have pockets of their networks (older TDM networks) that are not STIR/SHAKEN compatible.
- Users may report a number erroneously: Some people avoid calls from all unknown numbers. As a result, some customers may report your number as spam without answering the phone. If this happens enough, your number will be marked Scam or Spam Likely.
How Scam or Spam Likely phone block can hurt your business
Getting a number marked incorrectly as Scam or Spam Likely is common for businesses and organizations that are legally telemarketing. This mislabeling can harm your business by:
- Having your calls blocked before your customer receives the call: If a customer has Scam Block or an equivalent feature enabled on their phone, they won’t receive your calls, leading to lost business and a decreased number of call responses.
- Customers ignore your calls: People tend to ignore or decline calls accompanied by scam or spam warnings, which could lead to lost business, poor customer service, and increased costs for customer engagement. In a recent study, only one in 10 people reported answering a call from a Scam Likely number.
- Creating customer dissatisfaction: When customers don’t receive a call they’re expecting, they can become frustrated with your business. Miscommunication created by Scam or Spam Likely caller ID can lose your customers, especially if it prevents you from delivering your product or service on time.
Six ways your calls can avoid being marked Scam or Spam Likely
Being incorrectly listed as a scam or spam number can have an enormous impact on the success of your business. Here are steps you can take to avoid your calls being marked with this caller ID. Use these strategies to protect your number:
- Understand robocall laws: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has laws about making robocalls. Most pre-recorded automated calls are illegal for sales and marketing. Understanding the FCC’s telemarketing laws helps you stay off scam number databases.
- Originate marketing calls individually: In most cases, if you can originate calls to customers individually, do so. This prevents Scam or Spam likely ID from identifying your number when searching for high-volumes of calls coming from a single number. While algorithms are continuously changing, most phone numbers won’t be labeled as spam if no more than 100 calls originate from that number per day and many of spam labels will clear within 24-48 hours. Therefore, you should have enough numbers to make phone calls on one day and then let those numbers rest for two days before using them again. So having enough numbers for 3 days of use should allow a consistent rotation.
- Ask customers to save your number: Some third-party scam blocking apps allow users to block calls from unknown numbers. Others generate databases by excluding numbers stored in users’ contacts. Asking users to save your number in their contact list can help ensure your call reaches them successfully.
- Change numbers often: Most large contact centers change phone numbers often to avoid getting marked Scam Likely. You can also use this strategy, though it may not be practical for every business.
- Place test calls: By placing test calls to numbers represented by different carriers, you’ll know in advance which ones have marked you Scam or Spam Likely. Implementation of this system allows you to stay proactive while avoiding unwanted surprises down the road.
- Whitelist your phone numbers with the industry databases: Register your phone numbers with industry databases. When you register your phone numbers, the database service will ask that you attest to lawful dialing and will vet your use-case. Please note, that this will not guarantee your phone numbers are not labeled as scam or spam. However, it will make it less likely that your calls are mislabeled. It is important to register your phone numbers before you use them for any high-volume calling activity. Here are links to the databases:
What do I do if my numbers are incorrectly labeled Spam Likely?
If you’re using your phone number to make frequent, short outbound calls to remind clients of appointments, these may be categorized as fraudulent calls by wireless carriers.
If you know the carrier of your receiving party, you can contact their carrier to whitelist your phone number. You can also check if the receiving party is using a robocall database service like Nomorobo. Contact the third-party service to whitelist your phone number.
Here are some common US carrier and robocall database services you can contact:
Robocall database services
- Call Transparency
- Free Caller Registry (helps reach analytics providers that support the major US carriers)
Contact Signalmash if you have any questions or concerns.