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Answering the Call from Legitimate Businesses Globally: Uncovering the Issues

In today’s global marketplace, many businesses continue to rely on foreign-originated phone calls to cost-effectively reach their customers. While the U.S. and Canada aim to protect both consumers and businesses from fraudulent calls via standards such as the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) framework, some valid phone numbers from overseas are inadvertently flagged as spam. Not only does this impede legitimate inbound calls from other countries from reaching the recipient, but it also financially impacts these businesses and disenfranchises consumers who want to engage with them.

We sat down with iconectiv’s Director of Product Management, Bob Grant, to discuss the authentication of inbound phone calls that cross country borders. In the first part of the interview, Grants discusses how to ensure the delivery of these calls and the issues that need to be addressed so that legitimate businesses can continue to rely on the cost efficiencies of voice calls, which carry the destination country’s CallerID, to engage with consumers.

As more countries establish rules for inbound voice calls, there is growing concern that legitimate calls will not successfully reach the intended customers. Why is that?

Over the past several years, the U.S. and Canada have implemented authentication solutions that rely on numbering intelligence, authentication and know your customers metrics to mitigate illegal robocalls by reducing the impact of illegal CallerID spoofing. In the U.S., for example, the SHAKEN framework includes a CallerID authentication process and a traceback capability. Together, there is a digital handshake between the service providers originating the call and authenticating the accuracy of the calling number information, which helps identify and block illegal calls and spoofing.  

In the U.S. the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Triennial Report to Congress details the success of SHAKEN on the domestic front – with calls originating in-country. Now, the focus is on ensuring that legitimate calls coming from international numbers also receive the correct level of attestation to ensure that they, too, get delivered to their intended recipients and are not at risk of being identified as potential spam or scams. For reference, the A attestation label indicates that a caller’s identity is fully verified and can use that CallerID. The B attestation label indicates that the service provider cannot verify the right to use the CallerID. The C attestation label indicates that the terminating service provider cannot authenticate the originating source of the call – neither the caller identity nor their CallerID. 

The issue at hand is that under the current standard, voice traffic originating from a country outside the U.S. and Canada, will almost always get a C attestation even if the service provider is registered in the U.S. Robocall Mitigation Database (RMD). That is because the FCC requires those companies that serve as the entry point for foreign calls into the U.S. to implement STIR/SHAKEN, and since there is not likely a verified telephone number association, there is no way for the terminating service provider in the U.S. to verify the calling number. As a result, even legitimate calls are assigned a C attestation.

According to the FCC, “All providers are required to submit to this public database the contact information for the personnel at their company responsible for robocall mitigation related issues. Providers certifying to their implementation of a robocall mitigation program are required to include descriptions of the reasonable steps they are taking to avoid originating illegal robocall traffic.” In the Gateway Provider Order, the FCC prohibits intermediate providers and voice service providers from accepting traffic effective April 11, 2023, from gateway providers if they are not in RMD.

Given all these factors, now is the time for the industry stakeholders, regulators and service providers globally to address the issue in order to ensure their voice traffic is treated for successful delivery using cross border calling number authentication.

Part two of the interview with Bob Grant will focus on how cross border call authentication gives service providers an added value proposition for their enterprise customers. It will also cover how the industry should proceed together to ensure that legitimate businesses can continue to rely on the cost efficiencies of voice calls, which carry the destination country’s CallerID, to engage with consumers.

Those interested in hearing more can tune into the on-demand webinar Cross Border Call Authentication.