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Can We Talk? Honest Answers About How Businesses Can Protect Their Outbound Phone Calls

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An Interview with Jon Peterson, Fellow and Vice President of Research and Consulting, TransUnion

Q. What steps can businesses take to prevent the rise in call spoofing?

It’s still a bit of a problem call spoofing has not been entirely eliminated by STIR/SHAKEN. But fortunately, enterprises can take matters into their own hands.

We think the brass ring is what we call TruContactTM Spoofed Call Protection. That’s the capability for service providers (at the call termination side) to ascertain if there was a token generated by the originating enterprise from this specific phone number that we can then reference on the terminating side to decide if this call should go forward or not. For example, if a major healthcare provider places a call and there's no token from its enterprise solution indicating it did so at this time from its number to the target number, the terminating service provider should be able to block it. Consumers should never have to see that spoofed call. That's the brass ring — and it's not about call traceback capabilities or call forensics.

What consumers need is real-time protection — and Spoofed Call Protection provides enterprises significant trust and assurance.

Watch the full video series of Jon Peterson's interview here.

Q. With the introduction of STIR/SHAKEN and call analytics, what do businesses need to know about rising concerns around their outbound calls being mistakenly blocked?

Because there are no agreed upon standards for when you should mark a call as a spam risk or give it a bad spam score, a lot of legitimate enterprise calls are getting tagged as ones that should be blocked or ignored. This is an issue we’ve been working on quite a bit. Our TruContactTM Caller Name Optimization solution helps analytics providers effectively determine what calls coming from enterprises should and shouldn't be blocked. But until we can get to a point where there's more agreement on the conditions around which calls should be marked as spam or blocked, it’s going to remain a bit like the wild west.

That said, there have been a couple of suggested proposals. Hopefully, the remediation offered can provide a way for enterprises to understand where the problem is and why their calls are getting designated that way. But until we have universal adoption around that as well, you basically must rely on people who can help you remove those existing pain points from the analytics providers.

Q. Is call authentication still important now that branded calling is available?

When it comes to branded calling, I think we can all agree the worst possible scenario would be one where unauthenticated calls get green check marks, show fancy logos, and provide consumers all the information to make them trust they’re coming from a particular bank, healthcare or government institution.

It's crucial we find ways to couple the call authentication information we're generating with STIR/SHAKEN, and information about brands and caller names and everything else. Frankly, one of my fears when I look to the future is we'll end up with a regimen where these things are too decoupled. Or where service providers get information about a call deserving an A attestation, but they're not sure how trustworthy that information actually is. And yet, it’s enough to trigger some external database to lavishly display a colorful logo that indicates a completely trustworthy call consumers can safely answer.

That’s why our products like Caller ID Authentication tightly couple branded calling and call authentication. We create an assertion that tells you: Yes, you can trust this number and it's from this particular enterprise. And only with that would you then get the logo and name information — along with the green check mark that tells consumers to trust the call.

Q. We’re entering an era of voice deepfakes and generative AI. How do you think will this impact robocalls and phone scams?

Pretty much every news story you read about AI talks about its pros and cons. AI is going to destroy the world. AI might save the world. There are certainly ways generative AI could be utilized to trick consumers, especially when we think about the possibilities of having very realistic voices generated by AI. But at the same time, these large language models can also be used to look at call patterns — and why calls were accepted or not by different consumers — to determine which ones turned out to be abusive. They have incredible predictive powers.

It's a science fiction question, right? Asking whether new technology will end up doing more harm than good in the short term. That said, I think there's still reason for optimism. Although there may be some harm (especially in highly targeted fraud cases), when we look at call traffic and how nuisance calls are mitigated — on the whole, I think there's probably a lot of upside.

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