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Why Are My Calls Getting Labeled as 'Spam Likely'?

The Problem of Spam Calls 

Unsolicited spam calls are an almost unavoidable nuisance of modern communication. Nowadays these are mostly generated by automatic software robots (robocalls) and are constantly increasing in numbers. The staggering statistic is that more than 4 billion such calls are made on average in the USA each month accounting for more than 60% of all call volume in the nation!

Not only these are time-wasting, but they can also present a security concern. While some are from real businesses that promote their products or services, it is estimated that almost half are fraudulent calls made by scammers.

You can see some recommendations on how to block unwanted calls (and text messages) here.

Caller ID Spoofing 

There are situations when concealing a caller ID is legally used for identity protection. This practice, however, is more commonly associated with the act of deliberately assigning a fake caller ID to calls made by scammers trying to instill a false sense of trust and trick consumers into answering their, otherwise questionable, calls. This is called caller ID spoofing.

With VoIP technology, caller ID spoofing has become very easy to carry out, even allowing overseas callers to pretend to be calling locally. It also makes it harder to block the real numbers of scammers since they constantly keep changing their caller IDs. 

Scammers often use a tactic called neighbor spoofing where their fake caller IDs resemble the number of the recipient or at least have the same area code. They also try to use caller IDs that are similar to phone numbers of real institutions and businesses, all with the goal of making their caller IDs carry a sense of (fake) familiarity.

Caller ID spoofing can sometimes get your own numbers labeled as spam even if you have done nothing wrong (see below).

What is Spam Call Labeling?

Robocalling can be a problem for your business not only for disturbing inbound calls but also for your own outbound calls.

The FCC, mobile carriers, call analytics agencies, and VoIP service providers have been implementing measures to reduce and control the number of Caller ID spoofing and spam calls, creating systems that identify and label potential fraudulent and spoofed calls.

Calls that have been flagged as spam are not automatically blocked by carriers (although they may be blocked by mobile anti-spam apps). Instead, a warning label such as 'Spam Likely', ‘Fraud Risk’, 'Robocall', or 'Potential Scam' is attached to the caller ID seen by the recipient.

Labels are not assigned to individual calls but to phone numbers. If your number(s) is wrongly flagged for spam, it could disrupt your business and hurt your reputation since labeled calls are probably going to be ignored and rejected by many recipients, especially those who you have not yet established a business relationship with.

Call Labeling Systems

Carriers, analytics agencies, and service providers have different systems to identify and label potentially fraudulent calls. Some emphasize algorithms that automatically look for suspicious calling patterns while others may rely on users' input and complaints to build databases of what are assumed to be illicit phone numbers.

Call Authentication and STIR/SHAKEN Protocols

Call Authentication is the process of validating the identity of the caller and the accuracy of his caller ID. This indicates that the caller is authorized to use the specific caller ID and shows the call is coming from a legitimate source that has not been spoofed.

STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited)/SHAKEN (Secure Handing of Asserted Information Using Tokens) are regulations and a set of protocols for caller ID authentication. With STIR/SHAKEN carriers and service providers assign attestation signatures to every call they handle. 

There are there attestation levels 'A' (Full) both the caller's identity and phone number can be validated,  'B' (Partial) the caller's identity is validated but not the source of the number or the caller's right to use it, 'C' (Gateway) the gateway delivering the call is known but not the identity of the caller or the source of the call.

With 'A' level attestation your calls could actually be labeled positively with a checkmark or "Validated Caller" label, although this kind of approval is not yet implemented by all carriers.

Common Reasons for Spam Labeling

Spam labeling could be a result of your own actions or it could have nothing to do with them as it is always possible consumers may wrongly file complaints.

There are steps you can take to remove spam labeling (see next section), but it is still prudent to know the potential causes of spam labeling to better protect your numbers.

Scammers Spoofed Your Number

Unfortunately, this is not something under your control. If a scammer spoofed your number and used it with a fake caller ID, sooner or later your actual number will be reported by consumers and get labeled for spam. Consumers just have no way to know the number is spoofed. They report the caller ID they see and you suffer the consequences.

There is not much you can do to avoid this. But if it does happen you can fix the situation by contacting carriers, analytics agencies, or app vendors (see below).

Consumers Complaints

Not complying with the TSR and the National Do Not Call Registry (explained later in this section), can give consumers plenty of valid reasons to file complaints against you, leading carriers to flag your number. 

But even if you do comply, unwarranted complaints can still happen. Being courteous and professional on the phone is a given, but also be sure to have an efficient system to manage your own do-not-call list that can be accessed by all departments in your company. Otherwise, consumers can get very irritated if they get contacted after requesting not to do so.

If you send text messages you also have to follow the CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices to give consumers fewer reasons to file complaints.

High Call Volumes From the Same Number

Robocalls are characterized by their ability to produce a very high call volume. If you make a lot of calls from one number it could lead to that number being wrongly labeled as spam.

For a business that deals with high outbound call volumes it may be beneficial to rotate calls between several numbers, instead of just using one number. Track the number of calls you made with each phone number and if one is overused (more than 100 calls per day) balance usage with the other numbers.

Consumers generally don't appreciate frequently getting unwanted telemarketing calls from the same number. At the same time, you also don't want to make it seem like you are trying to trick them into answering by using different numbers. 

So, ideally, while you rotate numbers to control volume you should have a system to use specific numbers for specific consumers without calling them too frequently.

Other Calling Patterns

Try to ensure that numbers are consistent with their assigned purpose, because if consumers call you back on those numbers they may wonder about how their use reflects on your company's reliability. For example, if you have a number for an accounting department it is better not to use it for telemarketing calls. 

It is important to keep using the same numbers or caller IDs with existing clients. As they are likely to save your number in their contacts list, you don't want to call them from a number they do not recognize.

The TSR also requires that you don’t hang up on too many consumers. This is especially relevant if you simultaneously call multiple numbers, using some sort of automation, but your staff can not always address all the answered calls. The unanswered calls are considered dropped or abandoned. You should aim not to hang up on more than 3% of your answered calls.

Other calling patterns to avoid are frequently making very short callsinconsistent call volumes (especially quickly going from very low to very high volume), and especially dialing numbers multiple times consecutively.

These calling best practices apply to telemarketers but can give you more suggestions about preferable calling patterns especially respecting quiet hours

TSR and National Do Not Call Registry Compliance

The National Do Not Call Registry is a list of residential and private mobile phone numbers whose owners opted out of receiving telemarketing calls. It is part of a set of regulations called the Telemarketing Sales Rule that is enforced by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

If you make sales calls to someone on the list without his written consent or without having a prior business relationship and he files a complaint, your number could be flagged for spam. Even worse, you may also be subject to heavy fines and legal action. 

Without valid access to the registery you may even be subject to fines if you make sales call to numbers not on the registry!

You are also expected to have your company's own Do Not Call list. See this article for more information about the registry, the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), and best practices for calling consumers.

Reducing the Likelihood of Spam Labeling and Rejected calls

While not all spam labeling can be avoided or controlled there are certainly some things you can do to reduce its likelihood or having your calls rejected.

Register Your Numbers

One of the best ways to protect your caller ID reputation and attestation level is to register your phone numbers with the three call analytics services – Orion, Hiya, and Transaction Network Services. Conveniently register with all three services for free at www.freecallerregistry.com

These analytics services work directly with the major carriers. Registering with them establishes the legitimacy of your telephony identity and will  reduce the odds of your numbers being flagged. Each service will confirm the registration separately. Registration may also help to remove spam labeling.

Encourage Consumers to Save and Whitelist Your Numbers

You can suggest to consumers and clients to add your phone numbers to their contacts list, because even without spam labeling some phones or apps can reject unknown numbers. In case of spam labeling a consumer could more easily recognize the legitimacy of your calls and understand that the labeling is incorrect.

Also, you can suggest to consumers and clients to whitelist your numbers on any spam-blocking app they may be using. 

Manage Your Caller ID, Profile, and PBX Flow

Calls could be wrongly labeled as spam if carriers assign them with a 'C' or even just a 'B' STIR/SHAKEN attestation. For this reason, you should properly manage and monitor your CNAM (Caller Name) and caller IDs. Contact us regarding any changes to your profile or business name and be attentive when using caller IDs you have not used for a while.

If you have caller IDs you rarely use it is better to ask us to remove them from your account rather than having an agent use them by mistake. We can always give you alternative caller IDs if needed.

Pay attention to the structure of your phone system and PBX flow making sure there aren't any dead ends. Unanswered calls should reach a well-monitored company voicemail and consumers should always be able to navigate back to the main phone menu, IVR, or company directory. 

Avoid Blocking Your Caller IDs

Our TeleConsole mobile apps and most phones we sell have a feature to hide or block your own caller ID. See Android and iOS details. The Windows/macOS/Web version will be supported in the future.

Blocking your caller ID is useful when you don't want to give out your number to someone you don't trust, but otherwise you should always remember to unblock your caller ID.

People get suspicious of calls with hidden caller IDs and are more likely to reject them, even without spam labeling. They can also use *69 dialing to call you back and confront you about hiding your number. If blocked frequently your actual number and its STIR/SHAKEN attestation level could still be affected and flagged.

Blocking your caller ID during a telemarketing call is actually not allowed by the TSR regulations (read more about the TSR here.)

Be Cautious About Buying and Porting Numbers

When you port a number you previously owned over to Telebroad you have a good idea of how it was used. But a newly bought number you port over may have already gotten flagged or has been used in a way that may get it flagged.

Test and monitor such a number for spam labeling and try to put it into use gradually instead of immediately using it for all your outbound calling.

Consider Using a Rich Call Data Service

Rich Call Data (RCD) is the next step in caller ID information delivery. In addition to a name and a phone number, it allows the caller to provide a reason for the call and visual details such as a company logo, the caller's photo, and brand colors.

RCD information is delivered as part of STIR/SHAKEN signatures which technically means the caller has already had to be validated. But even a consumer without an understanding of the technology will have more confidence in a call with a recognizable logo and a short text about the call's purpose. 

RCD is not guaranteed to prevent spam labeling or low STIR/SHAKEN attestation level, but it should greatly reduce calls rejection rate.

RCD is currently still being tested and is not yet supported by all carriers. You can wait until it is fully implemented or you can get a headstart and find a service by looking for "RCD call display".

How to Monitor Your Numbers for Spam Labeling?

Before you can address the problem of spam labeling you need to figure out if your phone numbers are being labeled for it in the first place. This will also direct you to the carrier you need to contact to fix or remove the labeling.

A high rejection rate of outbound calls is an indicator of possible spam labeling, but to be certain try the following suggestions.

Do-it-Yourself Monitoring

The do-it-yourself method to monitor for spam labeling is to obtain phone numbers with the major US cellular carriers. Routinely call these numbers from your outbound Telebroad lines and see what caller ID label is shown. This will allow you to identify and contact the specific carrier that flagged you without wasting time with the other carriers.

Probably some or all of these cellular carriers are already in by your colleagues so, with their agreement, this could be done without having to especially subscribe to mobile services. You would need to consider smaller or regional carriers only if it relates to your client base.

Additionally, you should routinely call a mobile device where you have installed some popular spam-blocking mobile apps (see some CTIA-recommended Android and iOS apps). These apps maintain their own suspected numbers databases and apply labels independently. You will need to contact their developers directly to remove labeling.

Caller ID Reputation Services

The other option is to use special services to monitor and protect your caller IDs. To find such services look for "caller ID/number reputation service" or "caller ID management service". The extra expense is likely to be worth it if the service can provide immediate alerts about spam labeling events so you can minimize losses due to your calls being rejected.

Fixing and Removing Spam Labeling

Despite the above suggestions and your best efforts, it is still possible your caller IDs could be labeled as spam. 

While this is undesirable, spam labeling is not necessarily permanent. Carriers and app developers understand some spam labeling is erroneous and will let you request removing the labeling.

You should first go over the common reasons for spam labeling mentioned above. Pay attention to your call volume, calling patterns, and TSR/National-Do-Not-Call compliance. There is no point to have labeling removed just to see it come back later if don't apply the suggestions for these reasons. 

If possible, you should stop using a flagged number while you wait for carriers and app developers to consider your request. Doing so will improve the chances your request is approved or at least reduce the loss of business from rejected calls. 

At the same time, you need to keep an eye on the flagged number in case you are contacted on it to validate your identity and the information you provided when making a request to remove spam labeling.

Contacting Carriers and Spam Blocking Apps Developers

Registering your numbers with the three call analytics services can help remove spam labeling (it should be done regardless to reduce the likelihood of labeling.) However, this is not guaranteed and could take more time. It will also not solve the problem with spam-blocking apps.

To really address the problem you would need to directly contact each carrier or app developer. Carriers may also have their own spam-blocking apps or subscription services with a different procedure for removing labeling. Monitoring your numbers will help you figure out who to contact. 

Cellular Carriers and Operators

Contact the major US carriers and providers regarding wrong spam labeling as follows:

For other operators look for "take off spam list" or "remove spam labeling" with the name of the provider. Some of the small cellular operators are owned by the major carriers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) use the physical network of the major carriers. They may apply their own labeling or rely on the major carriers to do so. If you can't find how to remove labeling for a smaller operator try contacting the major carrier it is associated with,

Popular Spam/Call-Blocking apps 

Report a mislabeled number with some of the popular spam/call-blocking apps as follows:

Contact information for other apps can usually be found in the app description on the app marketplace for the operating system you are using.

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