Verizon Keeps Its Word, Expands Arsenal In War Against Robocalls

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Verizon is redoubling its efforts to combat unwanted or malicious robotic phone calls for its customers by following through on plans to implement a new "Call Filter" service that the carrier says falls in line with the goals of FCC-enforced STIR/SHAKEN standards. The new free variation of the tool, first unveiled to a limited audience back in January, basically brings some of the Call Filter features introduced over a year ago to all customers.

Differences between paid and free variants

The paid version of Call Filter will obviously net users far more benefits but the free version shouldn't be discounted altogether either and is available for subscribers on either Android or iOS devices. Verizon users simply need to navigate to the official sign-up page to get started and there's even a 10-day free trial pre-installed on some new device purchases that the carrier details on that page.

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Summarily, the free version of Call Filter will block out the worst of the robotic callers, filtering those out by default while providing basic spam detection alerts with some additional information on inbound calls meeting criteria. Free plan subscribers will also gain the ability to report new numbers that have somehow slipped through that filter.

On the paid side of things — unchanged at $3 per month, per line — Verizon continues to offer tools that are somewhat more comprehensive. A risk level associated with an inbound spam call is provided as well as Caller ID tools and a Spam Lookup feature for unknown numbers. Subscribers can set up their own spam list too and will be privy to their own personal block list to halt unwanted calls.

All of that builds on the company's previous work to implement the FCC's STIR/SHAKEN-enabled call policies, used to verify and authenticate phone calls to and from Verizon's network. The idea, as with similar features enabled on some of the carrier's competitors, is to ensure that the phone number displayed on the Caller ID isn't spoofed. Namely, the standards ensure that the number actually matches the identifying information of the device the incoming call originates from.

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Verizon plans to step up efforts further to integrate STIR/SHAKEN across interoperations with other carriers over the "coming months." That means that over the next few months, at least where those standards have already been enabled, Verizon customers and customers on other networks receiving calls from Verizon will be more protected against the malicious or unwanted calls.

Why now?

Verizon is technically not the first to offer these types of features for free to its subscribers, with T-Mobile rolling out a similar feature to some of its users in early January too. Sprint and AT&T offer similar services, with limited free versions available and paid alternatives that are more comprehensive, similar to Verizon.

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Increasing efforts in that space come down to two factors, beginning with a significant increase in robocall activity that's led to a harsher stance taken by the FCC. In November of 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called for wider adoption of STIR/SHAKEN standards and for new protections for consumers, citing spam, robocalls, and scams as top complaints received by the government body. That call came with a thinly veiled promise that the FCC would "take action" if compliance wasn't met within a reasonable time frame.