Phone Companies Developing New Technology To Block Robocalls

Thursday, July 16th 2020, 11:26 am
By: CBS News

If you've been looking for a silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic it may be this: the number of robocalls have dropped. But that win may be short lived.

When the pandemic closed stores in the spring, it also shut down call centers. According to YouMail, robocalls dropped 40% between February and April. But with the economy reopening, the numbers are creeping back up. In June, 45% of those robocalls were scams.

Now T-Mobile is offering something new to its customers, including those with recently acquired Sprint. The company is calling it “ScamShield.” T-Mobile's chief marketing officer, Matt Staneff, says the free service will block some scam calls and provide a caller ID for every number. "That means every call that comes in will have a name attached to it and you won't have to play the guessing game,” he says.

Customers can also get a second phone number, so you don't have to give your main number to strangers. "That way you can keep your personal number personal,” Staneff says.

CNET’s Roger Cheng says, “There's recognition by the industry that robocalls have hit a point where they're just one of, if not the most, annoying aspects of having cell phone service." He says all phone carriers are making robocall blocking a priority. Many companies, including T-Mobile, offer technology that verifies a number is real and not spoofed. The question is, will all that new tech work?

"I think you are going to see a continued cat-and-mouse game here where some of these scammers will work to get ahead of some these systems, the carriers will, again, try to counteract that,” Cheng says. “The fact that these carriers are all on the same page definitely gives me some hope that the volume of robocalls will go down." But Cheng and other experts don't expect those annoying calls will completely go away.

In December, President Trump signed a bill requiring phone companies to adopt technology that can identify spam calls.