Nov 8, 2021

When spam isn’t spam

Call Labeling: How it happens and why your business should be concerned

If you’ve ever received a call on your cell phone labeled ‘Fraud,’ ‘Scam,’ or ‘Spam,’ you’ve experienced call labeling technologies in action. Companies spend a lot of time, money, and effort planning who, when and how to call—such as identifying ideal candidates, contact list creation, training of agents, etc.—think of everything that goes into being able to initiate a call and now imagine the call being blocked, appearing as ‘unidentified’, or being mislabeled as a ‘Scam’ or ‘Fraud’. Would you answer that call? Would you provide any relevant information on that call? What company wouldn’t want to know if this was happening to their calls? What company wants their calls being blocked or mislabeled? 85% of people believe that an unknown number makes a business appear illegitimate and often do not answer unidentified calls.

Even legitimate numbers are at risk

Call labeling technologies are used by terminating carriers and can lead to calls being delivered as ‘Spam’ and ‘Scam’. These labels cause a lack of customer trust in your calls and damage to your brand reputation. Several factors can cause your legitimate numbers to be mislabeled:

  • Algorithms have been deployed to look for high or aggressive looking call volume, inconsistent traffic patterns, time of day calling violations, number of call attempts made to the same person in a short amount of time, and other potentially suspicious dialing behaviors.
  • These algorithms are extremely subjective and should be thought of as the terminating carrier’s best guess as to who you are and why you’re calling, hence the discrepancies from network to network. Even ordinary traffic patterns can be misinterpreted as suspicious by the algorithms.
  • Aggressive-looking dialing practices and customer complaints lead to improper labeling, and these labels are heavily reliant on crowdsourcing data and consumer complaints on certain TNs.
  • Robocallers spoofing your caller ID also affects the algorithms’ treatments of your calls and algorithms have taken on a life of their own thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).

The algorithms driving these reputational analytics vary across mobile networks, but generally ‘risk’ ratings can be defined as the raw perception data driving the presentation of the call labels themselves.

A higher ‘risk’ rating results in more severe ‘warning’ language as presented to the consumer in the form of a call label. Risk ratings can also result in calls being blocked at the network level. This is not the result of the STIR/SHAKEN framework, but instead, is the result of a call’s negative reputation leading to its blocking or diversion to voicemail.

Regardless of whether your carrier is STIR/SHAKEN compliant, your calls can still be blocked based on negative reputation.

Different labels, same damage

When carriers do their labeling, they use broad categories focused on revealing fraud intent. Different carriers use different labels, but they are all similar and can damage your reputation just the same:

  • Scam Likely – T-Mobile & Metro PCS
  • Spam Risk / Fraud Risk – AT&T
  • Potential Spam – Verizon & Frontier

These labels all indicate that the call’s possible intent is to defraud a consumer. However, the individual consumer is still free to answer if they wish. The power remains with them.

Take control of your identity and brand reputation

With a variety of anti-spam and caller ID technologies available, it’s no wonder that 56% of businesses don’t know if their calls are marked as spam or fraud, and this percentage is higher for healthcare organizations (84%) and retail companies (71%). As such, the best first course of action for businesses conducting outbound calling is to identify yourself to the analytics ecosystem as a verified business and associate your phone numbers with a legitimate business purpose. Steps you can take to mitigate risks:

Manage call volumes – Understand the relationship between phone number risk and phone number usage. For example, if 99% of an organization’s calls are delivered from a single number, you’re likely to experience some challenges with labeling. The algorithms are subjective, and ‘aggressive-looking’ dialing can be enough to trip the threshold.

Call intent – Using one phone number to make a variety of call types can come off as ‘confusing’ and ‘unpredictable’ and can increase mislabeling of your phone numbers. Think of this as ‘multiple personalities’ – so if one number is originally calling about ‘new account setup’, then tomorrow it’s calling about ‘customer service,’ and the next day, ‘past-due payments,’ this perceived lack of clarity and uniformity can seem suspicious and negatively affect a number’s reputation.

Stay consistent – Due to the increase in illegal robocall traffic, reputational analytics can sometimes perceive abrupt changes to calling patterns, sudden spikes in traffic, and the frequent swapping of phone numbers as ‘fraudulent looking behaviors.’ When the behaviors used by legal call originators too closely resemble the preferred actions of illegal callers, an increase in risk ratings and negative labels associated with legal call originators’ numbers can result.

Register and proactively monitor your phone numbers – Experts recommend registering your outbound numbers so your business and the numbers associated with it are verified. You can do this on your own by individually contacting each phone carrier and analytic engine, however this process is time-consuming and will likely require a dedicated resource to stay vigilant in this is ever-changing environment.

Offload this burden to the pros

IntelePeer’s Reputation Management solution is your ‘one-stop-shop’, providing three integrated components: number registration, monitoring, and remediation. We also cover all three of the analytic engines powering most of the U.S. wireless market, so you don’t have to obtain and integrate separate solutions for each component.

We can help you take control of your identity and protect your numbers from being mislabeled as scam, spam, or fraud, thus being blocked, or going unanswered. Receive full visibility and on-demand analytics of your call reputation and performance via our Atmosphere portal, backed by our award-winning customer service.