Aug 20

Taking the fight back to Rachel at Cardholder Services

Anyone whom has read this blog for some time knows that I have no love for the Robocalls from “Rachel at Cardholder Services” and similar ilk.

Since I wrote the series on “Rachel” four years ago, some of the sources of calls faced charges by state Attorney Generals, and the resulting judgement against each was in the State’s favor. Those companies and their “owners” are now out of business.

No Phone

But Rachel or one of her “Sisters” continues to make those calls from “Cardholder Services”…

Of course now, the “Free Cruise” calls, along with the “Carpet Cleaning” calls, the fake IRS calls all have joined “Rachel” in the On The Spot Blog Robocaller hall of shame. And this doesn’t take into account the scammers from the fake “Windows Technical Support” groups either (since those are live bodies at the other end, they don’t fall in the robocall group, but are just as bad).

It’s like the “Do Not Call” list is largely ignored. Most of these fraudsters realize that even if you do report them to the Federal Trade Commission for a Do Not Call Violation, they know there will be no investigation or prosecution. The FTC has far too few resources to fully investigate, and the robocallers are using technology to spoof or hide their calling point of origin.

But that’s about to change.

Three years ago, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission sponsored a contest to come up with the best way to block robocallers. Out of that contest, a winner emerged with a product known at “NoMoRobo”. NoMoRobo works by matching the incoming caller ID with a database. NoMoRobo’s servers answer calls from numbers in that database. If there’s a real person at the other end, it gives them the opportunity to enter a touch tone code (that changes with each call) which allows them to bypass the block and ring though to the person they were calling. In the end, your phone rings once for robocallers.

I activated NoMoRobo on my home phone about a year ago, and it has made a world of difference cutting down on the calls (even the political campaigns find their calls being blocked, so I don’t have to listen to them beg for donations again). But it’s not perfect. It works with some phone service providers, but not all, and Cell Phone Support is non-existent (more due to the carriers technology limitations than NoMoRobo’s).

So I’m not out of the woods yet. But this week an event happened that represented the “shot across the bow” to all robocallers and fraudsters.

Seal of the Federal Communications CommissionThe Federal Communications Commission, has established a “Robocall Strike Force”. This group of Carriers, Equipment Manufactures, Software Developers and more have sent their best technical resources to these meetings with the goal of developing solutions that will stop robocallers and other fraudulent telemarketers from even having their call complete, let alone ring the party they’re calling.

The FCC has tapped AT&T’s Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson to chair this Strike Force, with a final report due back to the FCC in a mere sixty days. They have established sub-committees that will look at different facets of the telephone network, and what they will be able to add to stop these abuses. They will also send any proposed regulatory changes needed to enforce this, and work with the global standards bodies to fast-track the necessary changes to the technical standards to support compatibility with providers outside the United States.

They are starting with five basic concepts, but what comes forth in October will be an interesting read. The next question will be how long will it take to put their proposals in place, and for us as consumers to finally have an evening not interrupted by one of these calls.

For more information on the Robocall Strike Force, please visit the following:

FCC Press Release and video of the public part of the August 19, 2016  kickoff meeting:

Transcript of AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson from the kickoff meeting, including a list of all the participating companies:

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