SOUND OFF: Have robocalls been bothering you in 2020?

Seems to me it’s been a while since I talked about robocalls. That’s a good thing. About a year ago, AT&T was the first carrier to start using STIR/SHAKEN (also inexplicably known as SHAKEN/STIR), a set of protocols that actually does something that makes sense. SHAKEN/STIR/SHAKEN or whatever you’re gonna call it checks where a call is coming from, and if it’s not from where they expected it to come from, it’s considered spam.

What is this shaking… stirring… what?

It’s a tortured acronym to say the least. The FCC says it stands for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited  and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs.” Really what they mean is someone is way too big of a James Bond fan:

But whatever they call it, it’s a smart move. Carriers put information into the caller ID stream to identify a phone and tie it to its real number. If that information isn’t there, the cell network tries to use location data and other sources to figure out where the call’s coming from. It’s a simple idea and it’s amazing that it took this long to implement it.

More importantly, it seems to be very hard for robocallers to figure out. If you have AT&T, you’ve seen “Potential Spam” or “Spam Risk” show up on your phone more than once. That’s STIR/SHAKEN at work.

Looking good so far

Take this information as good news: reports of robocalls went down over 60% year over year in the last available data. It may be too soon to claim victory, though. I’m sure you can think of a few other things that have happened in the last six months that might have also had some effect on robocall volume. Let’s hope at least some of that reduction in volume will stick into 2021.

What’s your experience been?

Well, let me tell you first about my experience. From about March until August of this year, I probably got maybe a total of ten robocalls, where at one point I was getting more than ten a day. It’s slowly inched up since then, to where I will get about one a week, plus three or four calls from real humans. I’ll call that a win.

I’m kind of curious to see if you have had the same experience. It would be great to think that the scourge of robocalls could be behind us. Most of us, at least. Land lines don’t have any form of STIR/SHAKEN and aren’t likely to get them either. It’s just another reason to leave that technology far behind you, something millions of Americans have laready done.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.