Enforcement action against robocallers in the SHAKEN era
The FCC recently sent cease-and-desist orders to three voice service providers for originating and transiting illegal robocalls. These providers have certification filings in the FCC Robocall Mitigation Database. Examining these filings alongside the cease-and-desist letters show how robocallers are adapting to the SHAKEN and robocall mitigation environment. Let’s have a look.
Cease and desist letters
The FCC Enforcement Bureau sent cease-and-desist letters to the following providers:
- Duratel, for originating substantial numbers of government imposter scam calls including posing as the Social Security Administration, the Federal Reserve, or the Department of Homeland Security. Duratel letter
- Primo Dialler, for originating robocalls that threatened utility discontinuation and offered fake credit card rate reductions. Primo Dialler letter
- PZ/Illum Telecommunication, for originating substantial numbers of government imposter scam calls including posing as the Social Security Administration, the Federal Reserve, or the Department of Homeland Security. PZ/Illum Telecommunication letter
These providers were identified by the Industry Traceback Group and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General.
The cease-and-desist letters issued these deadlines:
- 48 hours to inform the Commission and Traceback Group of steps they’ve taken to mitigate the illegal robocalls identified in the letters
- 14 days to inform the Commission and Traceback Group of the steps they will have taken to implement effective robocall mitigation measures.
The cease-and-desist letters state that if these providers fail to meet the requirements, other networks will be authorized, and perhaps required, to block traffic from these companies.
Robocall mitigation filings
There are three SHAKEN implementation types that can be claimed in a FCC Robocall Mitigation Database (RMD) certification filing: complete SHAKEN, partial SHAKEN, or no SHAKEN. As it turns out, these providers represent each implementation type:
- Duratel claimed partial SHAKEN, performing robocall mitigation. In their robocall mitigation plan, Duratel wrote that their software alerts them if they originate any calls where the calling number is invalid or unallocated.
- Primo Dialler has both an intermediate filing and a voice service provider filing. In their voice service provider filing, they claimed no SHAKEN, performing robocall mitigation. In their robocall mitigation plan, Primo Dialler wrote that they screen applicants for services.
- PZ/Illum Telecommunication claimed complete SHAKEN. Therefore, they are not required to file a robocall mitigation plan or perform robocall mitigation.
What worked, and what didn’t
First, a tip of the hat to the Industry Traceback Group. Traceback worked.
The robocall mitigation measures described by Duratel and Primo Dialler in their plans did not. No surprise here—these plans describe feeble efforts to mitigate unlawful robocalls.
SHAKEN didn’t prevent illegal robocalls. No surprise here, either—it wasn’t designed for that. Call authentication helps make robocall prevention more effective, but by itself does nothing to prevent unlawful robocalls.
Although they claimed SHAKEN implementations, neither Duratel nor PZ/Illum Telecommunication are on the STI Policy Administrator’s list of SHAKEN authorized service providers.
How could they be doing SHAKEN if they aren’t authorized SHAKEN providers?
What are robocall mitigation plans for?
In their Second Report and Order on SHAKEN, paragraph 82, the FCC stated that robocall mitigation plans filed in the RMD are intended to “promote transparency and accountability and give the Commission and others a snapshot of the variety of robocall mitigation practices adopted by voice service providers.”
We have examined many of the robocall mitigation plans in the RMD. Some describe good faith efforts that are likely to be effective. Many do not.
Follow the sequence of events above, and it’s difficult to find a purpose for robocall mitigation plans filed in the RMD.
These providers filed weak plans. Nothing happened.
Then these providers were caught originating or transiting illegal robocalls. Now they must fix it, and explain how they fixed it, or else have their traffic blocked.
The Enforcement Bureau and Traceback Group can compare these plans before and after enforcement to decide the fate of these providers. And they can use this comparison to document the basis for their decision.
That seems to be the real purpose for these plans.
In addition, we can help with all aspects of STIR/SHAKEN deployment, including registering with the Policy Administrator and filing your certification with the FCC.
Contact us today to learn more.
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