Robocalls rebound in August

Robocall volume has fluctuated widely throughout 2022 and rebounded to a new high in August. What’s happening in the war against illegal robocalls? Let’s look at the latest numbers and trends.

Robocalls Rebound in August 2022

Monthly robocalls January through August 2022

Figure 1. Robocalls in the U.S. Year-to-Date Through August 2022

In Figure 1, the blue line shows monthly robocalls in the U.S. from January through August 2022. Robocalls were up 17.4% in August from the previous month.

The red line shows robocalls in August as a baseline for comparison with other months. August had the highest number of robocalls this year.

The green dotted line shows the linear trend in robocalls. Unfortunately, the trend is upward as robocalls are generally increasing. The trend shows an increase of about 49 million robocalls per month.

It’s interesting to see the volatility in monthly robocalls. In 2022, robocalls have fluctuated an average of 9.8%, about 386 million per month. Lots of volatility, with a slight upward trend.

Are call authentication and robocall mitigation working?

The FCC recently requested comment on whether STIR/SHAKEN is effective as a tool in the Commission’s work combating illegal robocalls.

Judging by these robocall trends, the answer is no.

To be fair, however, this question, which the TRACED Act requires the Commission to ask, is based upon a few misunderstandings.

First, STIR/SHAKEN provides call authentication information, which is powerful when combined with robocall prevention, i.e., call analytics. The TRACED Act and ensuing orders require either SHAKEN or robocall mitigation, but not both.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Call analytics works better when you know if the calling number was spoofed. That’s why call authentication and analytics are supposed to be used together.

Second, we haven’t rolled out STIR/SHAKEN correctly in the U.S. By our count, there are almost 2,000 entities in the U.S. that claim a STIR/SHAKEN implementation but have not been approved to do SHAKEN by the STI Policy Administrator (STI-PA). Many of them have a downstream intermediate provider sign their calls using the intermediate provider’s SHAKEN certificate.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work either. The SHAKEN standards say a voice service provider is supposed to be approved for SHAKEN by the STI-PA so they can get their own SHAKEN certificate for call signing.

These 2,000 unauthorized entities aren’t doing SHAKEN. Their calls may get signed by someone else somewhere down the call path, but that doesn’t make them SHAKEN participants.

These unauthorized providers aren’t doing robocall mitigation either. Under the current rules, they don’t have to.

However, some of them are carrying illegal robocalls. In August 2022, calls signed with gateway C attestation were over five times more likely to be robocalls than unsigned calls.

Calls Signed with C Were Over 5 Times More Likely to be Robocalls

Robocalls by verification status August 2022

Figure 2. Robocall % by Verification Status in August 2022

Third, although the number of authorized SHAKEN providers and the number of providers signing calls has increased steadily month after month, the percentage of calls that arrive for termination with SHAKEN information intact is stuck at only 24%. The primary reason for this is that SHAKEN information is lost when calls cross a TDM segment in the call path.

Standards have been approved for methods that enable SHAKEN information to survive non-IP barriers along the call path. With these methods, the attestation provided by the originating service provider, who knows their customer and the calling number, can survive transit to the terminating service provider.

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TransNexus is a leader in developing innovative software to manage and protect telecommunications networks. The company has over 20 years’ experience in providing telecom software solutions including toll fraud prevention, robocall mitigation and prevention, TDoS prevention, analytics, routing, billing support, STIR/SHAKEN and SHAKEN certificate services.

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