TR Daily FCC Proposes Call-Blocking for One-Ring Scams
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

FCC Proposes Call-Blocking for One-Ring Scams

The FCC has proposed “allowing voice service providers to block a voice call when such call purports to originate from a number that is highly likely to be associated with a one-ring scam.”

“In this scam, consumers in the United States receive a call from a foreign country. After one ring, the scammer hangs up, causing the consumer to call back and incur significant phone charges (of which the scammer gets a share). Another version of the one-ring scam can involve a voice mail message asking the consumer to call a certain international number to schedule a delivery or providing some other pretext for the consumer to make a call,” the Commission explained in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) adopted Friday and released today in CG docket 20-93.

The NPRM seeks comment on the proposal to allow providers to block likely one-ring scam calls, as well as on “how we can implement the TRACED [Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence] Act and build upon our efforts to combat the one-ring scam by promoting consumer education and outreach, coordinating with our regulatory partners, and working more closely with industry to protect all Americans.”

Among the provisions of the TRACED Act is a directive for the FCC to initiate a proceeding to protect called parties from one-ring scams, the NPRM notes.

The NPRM also seeks comment on whether the recent joint effort of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission directing three gateway providers to block certain robocall scam traffic could serve as a model for dealing with one-ring scams. The bureau and the FTC had directed the gateway providers to “cease routing and transmitting” novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) scam robocall traffic originating from specified entities within 48 hours or face having all their calls blocked by U.S. voice providers (TR Daily, April 3).

“All three companies receiving the letters responded, informing the Commission that each of them had cut off the call traffic from the malicious actors generating COVID-19-related scam robocalls and we have no evidence as of this date that they have failed to act accordingly. Is such collaboration between the Commission, the FTC, and the Industry Traceback Group a model that we can learn from and/or extend to combatting one-ring scam phone calls?” the NPRM asks.

“Can these COVID-19-related actions serve as a model for similar blocking of gateway providers that allow one-ring scam calls to enter American networks? Should we codify a rule that enables voice service providers to block traffic from an international gateway provider that fails to block calls from numbers known to be used in one-ring scams, if the international gateway provider does not terminate such calls within 48 hours of being notified that such calls are entering the domestic network? If we codified such a rule, how might we minimize the blocking of legitimate calls? Would the benefit of such a rule outweigh the costs?” it continues.

“Can these COVID-19-related actions serve as a model for similar blocking of gateway providers that allow one-ring scam calls to enter American networks? Should we codify a rule that enables voice service providers to block traffic from an international gateway provider that fails to block calls from numbers known to be used in one-ring scams, if the international gateway provider does not terminate such calls within 48 hours of being notified that such calls are entering the domestic network? If we codified such a rule, how might we minimize the blocking of legitimate calls? Would the benefit of such a rule outweigh the costs?” it adds.

Initial comments on the NPRM will be due 30 days after publication in the “Federal Register” and reply comments will be due 15 days after that.

In a statement in an agency press release, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “One-ring scams are annoying and pernicious, waking up many Americans with confusing calls in the middle of the night and tricking them out of their money if they call back. With this effort, this agency shows it’s serious about aggressively combating this scam. I look forward to hearing from the public about their ideas for putting an end to this. And in the meantime, I urge them not to call back if they get calls like this.”

In a separate statement attached to the NPRM, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said that the agency needs to act on the congressional directive to address one-ring scams “with real speed. But when this effort was first proposed to my office, it was merely a Notice of Inquiry. That’s hardly moving with the urgency that a growing scam like this requires. So I am pleased that my colleagues agreed to my request to fast track this effort and turn it into a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. I look forward to the record that develops and more importantly, getting rid of these nuisance calls for good.”

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said, “The one-ring scam, which often involves robocalls using caller ID spoofing, is especially harmful because it can result in surprise telephone bill charges and other costs for unsuspecting consumers. We must stay nimble, vigilant and aggressive. By focusing on how to promote consumer education about one-ring call scams, and how to identify (and stop) these calls as they happen, we can empower U.S. voice service providers to help us protect all Americans consumers from them. Accordingly, I approve.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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