Google has chimed in to explain why you’re plagued by robocalls.
Paul Dunlop, product manager for the Google Phone App, offered a primer on the dynamics behind robocalls in a March 22 post titled “Why am I getting so many spam calls?”
According to a recent Google survey, half of respondents received at least one spam call per day, and one third received two or more per day.
And people are answering those calls. More than one third of respondents worry that a call from an unknown number is a call about a loved one, and another third think it could be a call from a potential loved one, so they pick up.
–“Ask a Techspert: Why am I getting so many spam calls?,” Peter Schottenfels, Tech Newbie, Google, March 22, 2019
Voice-over IP (VoIP) is the “culprit,” according to Dunlop. VoIP calls are made via the Web not a traditional phone line, making it a cinch for spammers to place these calls, he explains.
“Using VoIP technology, spammers place phone calls over the Internet and imitate a different phone number,” Dunlop says.
“It used to be that they had a fixed number, and you could block that number. Now with VoIP, spammers have the ability to imitate any phone number” — aka spoofing.
How did this happen? Dunlop says this became possible when company call centers were looking for an easy way to make calls to customers. That’s when “one general 1-800 number…showed up on caller IDs. So what started as a common-sense solution ended up becoming an easy loophole for spammers.”
This is called spoofing, and there’s nothing in phone systems—the infrastructure of telephones—that can prevent spam callers from imitating numbers. ‘You can actually be spammed by your own phone number…But the most common is neighborhood spam, using your area code and the first three digits of your phone number, which increases the likelihood you’ll answer.’
—Ask a Techspert: Why am I getting so many spam calls?
Google Call Screen
Google has novel AI on its Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, and Pixel 3 XL phones* to help you screen calls: Google Assistant takes the call, asks who’s calling and why, and generates a real-time transcript of the caller’s response.
“All of this happens ‘on device,’ meaning it protects your privacy while it makes sure you get the message as fast as possible,” according to Google.
In the blog post, Google also discusses a new technology called STIR/SHAKEN** that targets spoof phone number technology.
This will allow cell phone networks to authenticate calls by validating that the number associated with the call is legitimate. “You can then know that the caller is a real person using a real phone number,” Google said.
*I use call screening — where it generates a real-time transcript — on my Pixel 3 XL.
**FTC is in the process of approving STIR/SHAKEN. STIR stands for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited” and SHAKEN for “Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.”