Consumers receive an estimated 2.4 billion illegal robocalls a month, and many come with caller ID that can make it look like calls are from across town or an official government agency like the IRS.
Federal regulators took action this week to make it easier for phone companies to block some of these numbers before they ever get to your phone.
The idea is to allow “phone companies to proactively block calls that are likely to be fraudulent because they come from certain types of phone numbers,” the Federal Communications Commission said about rules approved Thursday.
Take calls that seem to be from the IRS to collect taxes owed, a common scam. The IRS does not operate that way, but many spooked consumers do not know that and are victimized by fraud or identity theft. Sometimes automated messages threaten fines or prison unless you call a certain number or take some action to pay up quick.
Bad actors often use “spoofed” numbers that are not really the source of the call. In some instances, they use this trick: They select real IRS phone numbers that only work on inbound calls, and don’t dial out, to carry out their impersonation, officials say.
Now such numbers can be placed a “do not originate” list that phone companies can consult to block the calls. Also targeted for blockage: Numbers with area codes that do not exist, numbers that have not been assigned to a legitimate user and similar red-flag categories.
To file a complaint about a caller you suspect is falsely claiming to be from the government or otherwise using a false identity, let the Federal Trade Commission know: