If you have ever heard the term robocall before, you likely thought it’s something you never would want to receive. If you haven’t heard the term, you’ve probably still experienced it. Most robocalls come from numbers you don’t recognize and begin with an automated voice instructing you to complete an action. These types of robocalls are used for a variety of purposes ranging from telemarketing to political surveys to scamming you out of money.
The number of robocalls is skyrocketing and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported consumers received 2.4 billion robocalls per month in 2016. Close to 85 percent of us have received a robocall on our mobile phones, half of which were nuisance or scam related, according to a recent First Orion survey of 1,000 U.S. mobile phone users.
Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents believe there is no such thing as a “good” robocall. It is not surprising that 9 in 10 people associate “robocall” with the term “annoying.”
With that in mind, it’s easy to think that all robocalls are bad, but is that really the case? What about product recall alerts, school closure notices, doctor appointment reminders, and pharmacy pickup notifications? Taken to an extreme, robocalls could saves lives in the case of tornado or hurricane warnings. In many cases, robocalls are a very effective and efficient way of conveying important information quickly and cost effectively.
Though people overwhelmingly say robocalls are bad, they do believe there are “good” robocalls. In fact, almost 85 percent of respondents consider an automated call from their pharmacy a good thing. This positive view of some robocalls also applies to automated doctor appointment reminders, weather warnings, school notifications, and other helpful robocalls.
Some robocalls are truly annoying, while some are beneficial. So how do we eliminate the bad robocalls, while keeping the good ones?
As the FCC challenges phone carriers to address the robocall issue, the carriers are in a difficult position since banning all robocalls may cause serious issues for consumers. The best technology solution focuses on the transparency of the incoming call. Solutions that identify who is calling and why give carriers and consumers the necessary information to take next steps, such as blocking the call or allowing it to go through.
Almost 92 percent of those surveyed by First Orion believe it is important to know who is calling before answering the phone and nearly 86 percent of those surveyed feel it is important to know why a number is calling.
For carriers that enable robocall transparency may find it a lucrative advantage. More than a quarter of survey respondents said that they would change from their current carrier if it meant robocallers could be blocked or identified when they called.
While mobile phone apps currently exist that block robocalls, the primary limitation is that they take an all or nothing approach to blocking robocalls. It is a blunt tool that prevents even the “good” ones from getting through.
Fortunately, improved intelligence around robocalls is enabling carriers to develop solutions at the network level to combat malicious robocalls. These applications can identify who is calling and why so the carrier and the consumer can make informed decisions on what to do with each robocall. They also give consumers the flexibility to switch phones, call using WiFi, or roam and still enjoy the same robocall protection.
The magic behind these solutions is they provide transparency to the incoming call. With increased transparency consumers can easily determine when to answer a call, block it or automatically send it to voicemail.
If we know it’s the pharmacy calling to tell us that our medication is ready to pick up, that’s a useful call – a good robocall. If it’s a scammer trying to trick us out of our social security number or bank information, we can choose block those before our phone even rings. With the right information and the right solutions in place, carriers and consumers can filter the good robocalls from the bad.
While it’s impossible to eliminate malicious robocalls, enabling robocall transparency at the network level gives us the best option to fight back.
Jeff co-founded First Orion in 2008 in Conway, Arkansas. Prior to First Orion, Stalnaker was CFO and later President of the Financial Services Division of Acxiom Corporation. Before joining Acxiom, Stalnaker was a senior analyst with the Arkansas Public Service Commission, responsible for testifying before the Commission on a variety of public utility issues, including the telecommunications industry.