Mar 28, 2022

Phone number reputation and STIR/SHAKEN

Enterprises should proactively take steps to protect their phone numbers’ reputation

To combat the fraudulent use of phone numbers and to restore trust to voice communications, the FCC required service providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN by June 2021. Yet, as most service providers have expected, these calls are still occurring, defrauding consumers, interrupting business operations, and costing businesses and consumers millions. In addition to STIR/SHAKEN, voice networks are using other measures to attack the robocall problem. They are using analytic platforms to detect and block the fraudulent traffic. Unfortunately, enterprises and other organizations are often innocent bystanders wrongly accused by these platforms. Businesses nationwide are suffering as their legitimate phone calls are being tagged as spam by mobile providers incorrectly, negatively impacting the business’ phone number reputation and making it difficult to reach customers and clients.

Negative caller ID reputation affects consumers AND businesses

Since May of 2021, Americans have lost nearly $13.4 million to coronavirus-related robocalls and spam calls alone. Between 2019 and 2020, over 56 million Americans lost money to phone scams, a 30% increase from the year before. And in 2021, there were 80.1 billion total spam and fraud calls in the U.S.

Consumers aren’t the only victims. The increase in spam has led to distrust from consumers; they’re suspicious of calls that are listed as unknown or aren’t from someone in their recipient list, making it even harder for businesses to have their calls answered. In fact, 79% of unidentified calls are unanswered, and 85% of people believe unknown numbers make businesses appear dishonest. That makes it even harder for legitimate businesses to get in contact with their customers for appointment reminders, bill pay reminders, and more.

Exacerbating this situation, many businesses don’t monitor their phone number reputation and 56% of businesses don’t realize that their calls are getting tagged incorrectly. When these businesses eventually discover that their phone numbers are tagged incorrectly, their caller ID reputation has already been negatively impacted. To attempt to mitigate fraudulent calls and their impact on consumers and businesses alike, the FCC implemented STIR/SHAKEN in 2021, but it’s far from a complete solution.

What is STIR/SHAKEN?

To understand why STIR/Shaken doesn’t fix Spam/Fraud calling issues completely, let’s first look at what STIR/SHAKEN was meant to do. 

STIR/SHAKEN is a framework of SIP communications standards outlined by the FCC that voice providers are required to implement. STIR/SHAKEN stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs. In simple terms, STIR/SHAKEN means that a call will have its caller ID digitally authenticated by the networks in the call route. The authentication starts with the originating voice carrier, which shares some information about its relationship with the customer and the number being used. The information shared is designed to give other networks an indication of their level of confidence that the caller is authorized to use the originating number that is being passed through to the other network. This ‘rating’ is called Attestation, which is like a report card for a phone number. The originating carrier will mark each call with an attestation level: Full Attestation, Partial Attestation, or Gateway Attestation. When the call reaches the destination, the terminating provider checks that the STIR/SHAKEN signature is not bogus and may then use the STIR/SHAKEN information to affect call delivery.

Why is incorrect tagging still affecting phone number reputation, despite STIR/SHAKEN?

STIR/SHAKEN isn’t a total solution – it is just one piece. It was not meant to solve the huge problem of spam by itself. It was meant to be one data point out of many that communications service providers could use to help identify unwanted and fraudulent calling. Used by itself, it can only tell a terminating service provider (the network used to connect the call to the recipient) that the originating service provider has first-hand knowledge about the customer and number, or that it’s not sure.

In addition to STIR/SHAKEN, many service providers have also implemented analytical services that are meant to help tease out attributes of a call that might indicate suspicion on the legitimacy of the caller. The terminating service provider then aggregates these attributes to ‘score’ a call, which then results in the tagging seen by the callee (‘Possible Spam’, ‘Spam Risk’, ‘Telemarketer’, etc.). Because this system isn’t foolproof, that means both legitimate and scam calls can make it through to a consumer without any tagging or calls that were fully attested via STIR/SHAKEN could still be negatively tagged.

There’s no silver bullet to 100% identify and stop scam calling. The tagging that service providers are adding to calls creates a more complex landscape since identifying scam calls isn’t an exact science and legitimate business are left in a worse position than before.

How to solve caller ID reputation issues outside of STIR/SHAKEN

Relying on STIR/SHAKEN isn’t enough to guarantee that phone number reputation is accurate. To ensure that calls are accurately tagged before operations are impacted, businesses should embrace a reputation management strategy. Reputation management helps take control of an organization’s brand and identify and protect its numbers from being inaccurately labeled as scam, spam, or fraud.

Reputation management consists of: 

  • Registration: Appropriately registering the organization’s numbers to establish a verified calling identity. 
  • Monitoring: Consistently tracking the organization’s numbers across the analytics engines that serve all the major U.S. mobile carriers.
  • Remediation: Actively and rapidly correcting mismarked numbers if they occur.

Depending on the organization’s unique needs, reputation management can be handled internally, through a call reputation monitoring service, or through call reputation management service. The three phone call reputation approaches are unique to each organization’s needs.

Learning more about Reputation Management

Implementing a reputation management strategy is critical to organizations, but choosing the right solution depends on several variables. And not all reputation management solutions are created equally. IntelePeer’s Reputation Management solution is a one-stop-shop for number registration, monitoring, and remediation, complete with full visibility and on-demand analytics of call reputation and performance, backed by our award-winning customer service. Don’t just take our word for it. Contact us today to learn how you can improve customer experience, modernize communications, and streamline operations with our Reputation Management solution.