Spam phone calls are no longer reserved for landlines only, with millions of mobile phone customers complaining about spam and robocalls on their mobile devices. AT&T (T) is trying to combat that, rolling out a new feature this week to block spam calls on wireless phones.
The free service called Call Protect automatically blocks fraudulent calls and alerts customers with a warning logo if it thinks the call is spam. With the service, customers can also temporary block calls for thirty days with a companion app.
“Nuisance calls are an industry-wide problem that unfortunately affect many people,” Jeff Bradley, AT&T’s senior vice president of Device and Network Services Marketing, said in a media report discussing the service. “We’ve listened to our customers and know they want a network that provides tools to proactively assist in blocking nuisance calls. AT&T Call Protect, along with others, will help put customers more in control of the calls they receive.”
The new spam blocking service isn’t for everyone. Only customers who have HD Voice can add Call Protect to their account. Other features of the service include the ability to view a list of blocked calls via the Call Protect app.
Industry Came Together To Fight Mobile Spam
The move on the part of AT&T comes at a time when the industry is wrestling with an increase in spam phone calls and texts on mobile devices. In August the telecom and technology industries, under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission, created the Robocall Strike Force led by AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson and including 33 technology companies, aimed at stopping spam and robocalls. Among the things the task force are looking at include Do Not Originate lists and call blocking technology. (Read more: U.S. Telcos Covet Pretty Things: Outlook for IoT Buys in 2017.)
Since then the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has expressed frustration with the progress the group has made in blocking unwanted calls. According to a Fortune report Wheeler said “we are not yet where we want to be. We’ve not reached the goal. We need solutions now.” The Strike Force plans to meet with the FCC in early 2017 to discuss strategies to block unwanted calls on mobile devices. The task force did have one success so far, running a Do Not Originate with Internal Revenue Service’s phones numbers that are often used to scam consumers. That lowered robocall complaints by 90 percent, Fortune reported at the time. Hiya, a company that tracks spam and robocalls, estimates mobile phone customers in the U.S. were subject to 984 million robocalls in September alone.