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New technology in effect alerting more consumers to spam calls

To help block unwanted calls to consumers, the FCC is requiring phone companies to use a technology that will let a consumer know if an unknown number is legitimate.

COLUMBIA, S.C. β€” If you use a home phone, big changes are in store beginning this week.

Tuesday was a critical deadline for telephone providers. They were ordered by the FCC to begin using new technology to help identify unwanted calls.

"The real need for that was it's so easy to spoof phone calls," said Bailey Parker, the Director of Communications and Public Information for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA). "A scammer will actually copy somebody's phone number, whether it's a government agency or another business or just some random person."

To help block unwanted calls to consumers, the FCC is requiring phone companies to use a technology called STIR/SHAKEN.

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By doing software updates to companies' IP networks, STIR/SHAKEN can help verify the number making the call, block it if necessary and let the consumer know it could be spam.

"You are going to be able to better identify whether you should answer the phone or not. It's kind of like a lot of cellular providers, you now will get a phone call and they have implemented the technology where it will say 'Possible Spam'."

Parker says keep in mind, this rule only applies to landlines.

If your cell phone provider isn't already helping identify spam calls, Parker recommends asking them if they offer the service.

"Call your phone provider to see if they've enrolled in the STIR/SHAKEN, because if they haven't you might want to think about changing phone providers," she added.

The deadline for large phone companies to begin using this technology was Tuesday, September 28.

For the small telephone providers with 100,000 lines or less, their deadline to implement the call blocking software isn't for another two years. SCDCA officials say they're supporting the FCC to have an earlier deadline for these smaller companies, as data has shown many robocalls stem from small service providers.

The FCC says so far, 4,800 phone companies have implemented STIR/SHAKEN, including all of the nation's largest carriers.

"The FCC is using every tool we can to combat malicious robocalls and spoofing – from substantial fines on bad actors to policy changes to technical innovations like STIR/SHAKEN," said Acting Chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release Tuesday. "Today's deadline establishes a very powerful tool for blocking unlawful robocalls."

If you're wondering if the number of unwanted robocalls will decrease, Parker says don't get your hopes up.

"You're unfortunately not going to get fewer calls," she said.

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Robocalls and text messages from numbers you don't recognize are still running rampant, and you're encouraged to report them to the state's Department of Consumer Affairs.

"Those text messages you are receiving will continue to come and they are becoming a lot more prevalent because it is very easy to send text messages, even easier than making phone calls," said Parker.

The FCC says calls from providers not using this new technology must now be blocked from domestic phone networks.

To view the phone companies who have registered in the Robocall Mitigation Database and implemented STIR/SHAKEN, click here.

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