News10NBC investigates apps designed to ID those robocalls you get

April 22, 2019 06:38 PM

(WHEC) -- How do you like getting those robocalls to your cell phone? 

The average American gets 23 every single month. We know some of you get up to a dozen unwanted calls a day. So News10NBC wants to help you avoid some of them by looking into the apps the major cell phone carriers provide to identify spam or possible scam phone calls. 


The apps are not going to block the calls but they're going to tell you on the screen of your phone which calls you don't want to take. 

"When I get phone calls from places I don't know, I get a little anxious," Debbie Carroll said. 

Carroll is a Verizon customer. She contacted News10NBC after a series of unwanted calls trying to access her medical information. 

"Just a computer that's dialing your number and seeing what information they can get from you," she said. "It's a violation of my privacy as far as I'm concerned."

In March, Verizon started "Call Filter", an app designed to identify spam and scam calls. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Explain to me what a Call Filter does."

David Weissmann, Verizon: "Sure. So Call Filter is a free app that allows our customers to manage the calls that are coming into them and avoid getting spam calls. So they'll see a little thing on their screen pop up when calls come in through their regular phone warning them of potential spams so they know to avoid those calls."

AT&T offers something called "Call Protect". Sprint has "Premium Caller ID."

Sprint does not offer a free version. 

All the major carriers offer an enhanced version at $2.99 a month. 

News10NBC helped Debbie Caroll try to get the app on her phone. 

"I hate scams," she said. "I don't like people to be taken advantaged of."

Note Google Play Store users: Carroll had difficulty getting the app because she uses Google Play Store. We told Verizon about that and got this email response: "The Call Filter app is pre-loaded on this device and can be found in the Verizon Apps folder. Please note that the Call Filter app is updated along with your device's software upgrades and is not eligible for download or update through Google Play."

Brean: "Does this system work?"

Weissmann, Verizon: "Yeah, Call Filter works. Basically what it does is it allows Verizon on the backend see millions and billions of calls come through and we can see patterns and detect what possibly is spam. So spammers are going to use phone numbers that look like your number to make it look familiar to try to get you to pick up, and this is going to allow you to avoid those calls."

You have to avoid them because they're not going away. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported the Federal Communication Commission fined robocallers $208 million since 2015. You know how much it collected? 

$6,790, according to the WSJ.
Here is a statement from the FCC: 

"The FCC does not have the independent authority to bring an action in federal court to enforce the agency's forfeiture orders. Rather, if a violator declines to pay a fine, the Commission must refer the matter to the Department of Justice, which has the authority to go to court to enforce collection of the penalty. The FCC has referred all final, unpaid forfeiture orders involving robocalls and spoofing issued during this Administration to the Department of Justice so that the Department can take the necessary action to try to collect the fines. Also, because many of these spoofers/robocallers are individuals and small entities, they may not have the resources to pay the full fines. Our fines are based on a variety of factors, including the egregiousness of the conduct, and the target's financial resources. Fines serve to penalize bad conduct and deter future misconduct by the target and others."


Berkeley Brean

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