2018-05-04

Junk calls, what can we do in A&A

Understandably after I was cross a junk call some people say "your work for a telco".

So, first off, I do, but I don't expect special treatment. Anything we can do for me, we should be able to do for any of our customers. OFCOM have some brain dead plans on CLI which will fix nothing in this area, so I will not even bother to link to them.

I have been pondering what A&A can do?

Well, one simple step is have anonymous call reject (ACR) on the normal (01/02) numbers which has a message "This number has been changed to" and quote a number with an unusual prefix, like 033 or 055 or 056. These are not expensive to call, but I bet junk callers will just move on to the next mark and not dial an alternative number.

But what else can we do?

At present, we do not see the underlying CLI for most callers where the CLI is withheld. As a telco that is something we are "allowed" to see. What we cannot do is pass it on to any of our customers. We have several carriers, and it is complicated. We can definitely have access to withheld CLI from one, but that depends on a factor outside our direct control at the moment, and we are working on it. We may be able to get from another carrier. In an ideal world, all the incoming calls would provide a CLI even when withheld. Obviously we need to audit our systems to be 100% sure we do suppress such CLI from our end users as well, though I am pretty sure we have that sorted.

If there is some police investigation we do have details of the way calls are routed in and out for long enough to allow some tracing of calls back through connected carriers if needed. In that respect we don't need to see withheld CLI. The police could investigate. But I assume most people would not want to involve police time on such nuisance if they can avoid it.

So, let's assume we get the withheld CLI in due course, what can we do?

Well, we have been working on ways we can provide customers with easy ways to block things. Not just blocking specific caller CLIs but ideally blocking withheld CLIs. We need some way to dial a code, or click on a CDR record, to say "block this caller" even when the end user cannot see the number being blocked. We can only really add that extra step fully when we have withheld CLIs.

But even where we have a block, I wonder what else to do - the simple answer is a message "This call is blocked", or an ACR level "This number does not accept calls where CLI is withheld, redial without withholding your CLI, usually by prefixing the call with 1470".

But do we want to offer users more choice, like "Fuck off and die in the pits of hell" as a message? Would such a message be break of some legislation on offensive communications? What if the communication is from a machine?

One idea was an ACR of "This number does not accept calls where CLI is withheld, redial without withholding your CLI, usually by prefixing the call with 1470, or hold to be connected if you agree to pay £5/minute to the recipient for handling this call"...

Now this would be a fun one, you'd want that on the call recording, obviously, but whilst we would not have a way to make the call expensive, the junk caller hanging on the line and being connected could be deemed to have entered in to a contract there. No need to rely on PECR or ICO or anything else, if they are a junk caller then they have agreed to pay for the call.

I can't work out a wording of "if you are a junk caller" that I can be confident would be legally enforceable. Maybe " if your call is in breach of the privacy and electronic communications regulations" on the end of that message would suffice. Then a hospital calling from withheld would be able to hold and talk without fear of a bill.

Would it put them off? Who knows! Would it make for a fun county court claim, maybe, just maybe...

Anyway, some time, A&A will no doubt have some more options for our voice customers. Watch this space.

21 comments:

  1. I use asterisk and incoming calls without caller I’d gets moved to a prompt where they are told
    withheld numbers are not accepted and to continue you need to enter your phone number. Most junk callers give up at this point but people like the dr’s surgery will enter a number and be put through.

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    1. Fine for honest callers and for malicious callers it's great for DoSing people you don't like.

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  2. Replies
    1. Yes, this sounds ideal, does anybody know where I can get one please? I have a little call block gadget but spammers still get through

      https://youtu.be/NdWJpHt1Xws

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  3. A lot of the callers these days fake their caller ID with a random number and get through even if u have ACR or have blocked the number used previously, it is maddening

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  4. I seem to have accidentally hit on a scheme that works. It uses Asterisk on a cheap Z83 box to answer all calls with a recording that says "This is , please wait while we connect your call" and then provides a ringing tone while the house phones ring. In the last couple of years I've used this system, I've had perhaps 100 junk calls but not a single one has got through to the point of ringing the house phones. I think the automatic diallers used by these nuisance callers interpret the message as an answering machine and immediately disconnect the call. As a bonus, genuine mis-dialled wrong numbers tend to hang up when they hear the message.

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    1. The downside is this hurts people who genuinely want to get through as they are being charged for the call once it is connected.

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  5. I get very few junk calls and they're all from real numbers, usually London ones. If I answer they play a recorded message and ask me to press 1 to speak to a rep.

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  6. I no longer seem to get any junk calls from withheld numbers - it's entirely 'landline' 01 or 02 numbers. Except you can't call them back as they aren't real numbers, they don't actually exist.

    So presumably they are spoofing their caller ID to be a number that doesn't actually exist (probably checking first that it doesn't exist). Would there be any way of you checking whether a number exists, and blocking and reporting calls spoofed as being from a number that doesn't exist? Could you use the raw/underlying data you have to find out who's actually calling?

    I think the fact that you are a Telco may mean you could actually gather information on reported PECR-breaching calls and then if there is a number which you know has breached rules like PECR and not spoofing CLI, you could launch a private prosecution.

    I'm sure customers would be happy to contribute a few pounds on a bill to foot the costs upfront - and you usually get them back afterwards from Central Funds, win or lose.

    How does that sound? Or is it another of those stupid laws that only the ICO can prosecute?

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    1. Also, I note that the Data Protection Bill unequivocally enables people to recover non-material damages for breaches of data protection laws other than the DPA and PECR. See in particular Sections 165(1) and 165(5).

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  7. I had a dream where Ofcom awake from their slumbers and made Automatic Call Trace 1477 enabled by default for everyone.

    The ICO took on hundreds of extra staff and prosecuted all those that had been flagged up for calling TPS numbers, jailing the company directors in every case and always reclaiming the costs of prosecuting them.

    Ofcom also enhanced 1477 by adding a menu option whereby the TPS-listed victim could set a flag to have a £1 surcharge automatically added to the offender's telephone bill. Of course, Ofcom had been wise enough to specify that the surcharges would be suspended until 20 different numbers had set the flag, to prevent dodgy companies penalising everyone who complained that their goods hadn't arrived, or quarrelling couples victimising their former partners.

    Overnight, nuisance calls became as rare as smoky pubs and offices.

    Unfortunately, I was then awoken by a nuisance call...

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    1. Do u ever have that dream where u can press the pound sign button and it sends an electric shock to the spammer

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  8. There are rumours that those ones that tell u to press 9 to speak to someone charge us at a premium rate if u do press 9, does anybody know if this is true please? Because I’m thinking of pressing 9 and giving them a piece of my mind.

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    1. You don’t get charged for an incoming call just because you press 9! They are also unlawful anyway (regardless of TPS), a fact ICO struggle with (suggesting you contact TPS).

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    2. Thank you... I have always suspected it was an old wives tale, but was always reluctant to press 9 just in case. Great to have these myths debunked :)

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    3. Perhaps at one point on some PBX systems this would transfer the caller to an outside line, which could indeed be expensive. Can't see how it would ever have had any effect for home user

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    4. Even then - outside line to where, without whole new number... No.

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  9. You need a prompt asking for a random number (0-9):

    Examples:
    Press 2 to connect this call.
    Press 8 to connect this call.
    Press 5 to connect this call.

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  10. If you do get the withheld CLI from your peer carriers could you pass it on as a hash in a SIP header?

    I think the solution is a spamassassin style score for incoming calls. Greylisting based on the hashed CLI could be quite effective and could whitelist legit withheld callers like doctor's surgery etc. based on the hash.

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    1. A hash is a bit of an issue with such a small data set.

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