Eli5: Why can’t spam call centers be automatically shut down?

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Additionally, why can’t spam calls be automatically blocked, and why is nobody really doing a whole lot about it? It seems like this is a problem that they would have come up with a solution for by now.

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Automatically blocking all calls just because they don’t have a digitally verified caller ID could also risk unintentionally blocking some legitimate callers.

Most of the spam call centers originate in countries where the governments don’t _really_ care all that much. For example, a good number of them are in smaller cities in India, where the politicians are willing to turn a blind eye for the right price (and so long as they don’t go around scamming Indians).

From there, the call centers are just another overseas call. There are a number of _legitimate_ call centers in foreign countries, so looking to block the scam ones is a needle in a stack of needles. Its a ton of effort for the phone company with little actual benefit to them.

Because POTS is a POS

The Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) is the old copper line based system. A call comes in with routing information about where it needs to go but doesn’t necessarily say who it came from nor is there a way to check so its easy to spoof “local” numbers from overseas and run the call center from a country that either doesn’t care or financially benefits from the scams through them bringing money into the country.

There is a recent change that helps to combat a lot of it. Its called [STIR/SHAKEN](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STIR/SHAKEN) because someone wanted to make a Bond martini joke. Since most of the network is now passing digital packets it adds more to the header about who’s system its coming from and who’s vouching for the call which can be checked up on. If there’s a call coming into the Verizon Boston switching center claiming to be from an AT&T number and its coming from the AT&T Boston switching center across town its probably real. If its coming from Mumbai that’s suspicious

There are still some gaps that they’re trying to close, mainly smaller phone providers that accept international connections. They provide a way for the international calls to get into the US system, then get assigned the label of the smaller domestic phone provider and short of blocking all calls from the smaller provider it hard to filter them out. The smaller providers also make money from their international connections sooo they’re not super interested in spending money to shut off that tap.

two words: political will.

while the problem probably cannot be 100% solved until the POTS phone system is dead and gone, which will probably take quite a long time indeed, it could be made dramatically better if the FTC introduced rules requiring phone network operators to proactively manage spam.

the trouble is, that means a lot of work without much financial reward. as long as the phone network operators have political clout in washington, they can pressure elected representatives to deny this power to the FTC. elected representatives just want to get reelected, and they get a lot more money for campaigns from AT&T and verizon than they do from you and me.

we all talk about how money corrupts politics, but sometimes it feels very abstract. this is a great concrete example.

Already on the way to be implemented in India. All calls will require the caller’s identification information to be displayed to the receiver, so you can just tell scammers to fuck the shut up.