Image 01 Image 03

AT&T Plans to Automatically Block Robocalls in ‘Coming Months’

AT&T Plans to Automatically Block Robocalls in ‘Coming Months’

More than more than 4.3 billion robocalls, both legal and illegal, went out last month.

When we revisited our AT&T Uverse plan, my husband and I decided to cut the landline we have had for over 20 years. We chose this route because we didn’t want to spend $20/month for robocalls that always rang. The pitches were wide-ranging: Solar panels, timeshares, carpet cleaning. My favorites were the “IRS agents” with foreign accents who were going to jail me for tax fraud.

Now, AT&T will soon become the first U.S. carrier to automatically block robocalls following an FCC ruling that enabled the company to expand its efforts to fight back against spam callers.

The company said that it will initiate the service automatically “over the coming months” and that customers will receive a text message notifying them it has been activated. New AT&T customers will have the service initiated by default and can opt out.

The wireless carrier is able to expand its Call Protect service because of a June ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that allows carriers to provide call blocking on an “opt-out” basis, the company said.

“The commission’s recent action builds on a years-long effort to enable broader adoption of call-blocking tools and allow providers to better protect their customers and networks,” the company said in a statement. “AT&T remains committed to working with our government and industry partners in the ongoing battle against unwanted and illegal robocalls.”

Industry data show that more than 4.3 billion robocalls, both legal and illegal, were placed last month.

Robocall blocking uses algorithms and network scanning to identify unwanted calls, similar to how email providers scan for spam messages.
AT&T’s service will attempt to block fraudulent calls and alert customers when a call may be spam. It will be available on all new lines and added in the coming months to existing customer lines. Those customers will be notified by text when the service is active.

The company already provided call blocking to mobile customers who downloaded the AT&T Call Protect app or opted in via their account settings. Landline customers had also been able to opt in. Now, AT&T customers will only have to opt out via their account settings if they don’t wish to have calls blocked.

If you thought the number of robocalls had increased recently, you would be right.

A recent report from First Orion, a company focused on consumer protection against the unwanted calls, found that scam calls jumped to nearly 30 percent of all calls in 2018, up from 3.7 percent the prior year. Robocalls are expected to increase to 44.6 percent of all calls in 2019, the firm projected.

The FCC said 60 percent of the complaints it receives each year are due to robocalls. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said they were working to “stop the scourge of illegal robocalls.”

One Democratic presidential candidate has a plan to end robocalls. In perhaps one of the most bipartisan proposals that has been announced this season, entrepreneur Andrew Yang has this plan:

As President, I will initiate a robo-calling text line. If you receive a robo-call that you feel was a waste of your time, simply forward the number that called you to our robo-call investigations line (800-ROBOCAL). The FCC will follow up with the company that called you. If the FCC receives numerous complaints about a particular company, they will issue significant fines. This will quickly discourage companies from adopting marketing tactics that customers find unpleasant or unwelcome.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.



Junk calls – both automated and live – are why I no longer have a telephone. It’s been fourteen years now…

I have a phone, but I don’t answer it.

Works great.

I just turn the ringer off, since the late 90s. Phones are for outgoing calls.

    olhardhead in reply to rhhardin. | July 12, 2019 at 10:27 am

    well, that works great. So…when your doctor calls you to tell you to come in immediately it’s not a problem…right…they mostly use different numbers for outgoing calls than the one you call in on so you might not know who’s calling you…great plan.

      Why would your doctor be calling you to “come in immediately?” The only scenario I can imagine is when you’ve had some tests done. In that case you check the online portal/app to view the test results and/or get messages from your doctor.

        kyrrat in reply to Paul. | July 12, 2019 at 3:13 pm

        My doctor mostly sends text updates to my phone with reminders. If the dr’s office needs me to call them they text me to call to get information for test results. Works pretty well and doesn’t require them to be on their phones so much trying to get patients.

      guinspen in reply to olhardhead. | July 12, 2019 at 10:03 pm

      Doc is a verified contact number. When he calls me, the incoming call screen says “Doc.”

    Firewatch in reply to rhhardin. | July 12, 2019 at 10:56 am

    My is unplugged and will stay that way.

2smartforlibs | July 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

Not that it will take long for a workaround but why wasn’t this done years ago?

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to 2smartforlibs. | July 12, 2019 at 10:56 am

    I’ve been reading up on it. Spoofing of numbers makes this blocking and intercept ability very difficult to do.

    The protocols that were developed many decades ago for switching calls between carrier networks weren’t originally designed to authenticate numbers. Back in the days when everything was run by Ma Bell this was not a problem. Over the years the system has been extended to integrate calls coming from cell networks and now computerized telephony systems… it’s a big problem now. They’ve enhanced the protocols but it’s going to take time to roll out the changes.

Finally! I’ve been getting calls up to 20+ per day from someone pitching something in Chinese for many months now. The number revealed when it is ringing is not the one that records on my phone logs and it is never the same number. For years now, if callers are not already on my contact lists or call in anonymously, I don’t answer. Leave a message.

Annoying beyond belief. I got a new business number earlier this year and on the very first day, I got over a dozen calls from that Chinese source alone. Why even have a phone?

Block robo calls? I don’t know. I’ve always looked forward to speaking with Rachel of Credit Card Services.

    Ironman in reply to fscarn. | July 12, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    You know Rachel too? I hear from Rachel at least 10 times day. I thought I was her favorite. Does this mean Rachel is cheating on me?

      Eskyman in reply to Ironman. | July 12, 2019 at 6:04 pm

      Hey, I’ll trade! Rachel sounds better than the robocalls I get, which involve my Social Security benefits being cancelled unless I call back right away….

      Like most here, I don’t answer the phone, so the robocalls I get are those left on my voicemail. I also block the numbers, but they seem to have an infinite number of them to call from!

Close The Fed | July 12, 2019 at 10:40 am

One thing concerns me: will it be used to block merely people AT&T disagrees with? Probably not, but these days, you have to consider that.

It won’t make much difference with call spoofing. I keep getting calls about my automobile warranty expiring. It comes from random numbers, usually a cell phone number, and if I call the number back the respondent invariably has no idea what I’m talking about.

By the way, I drive a 1992 Chevy Pickup. That’s 27 years old. What company would want to sell me a warranty on that?

    Paul in reply to Elric. | July 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

    You’re right, the ability to spoof numbers is the underlying problem. They’re enhancing the protocols to fix this problem which will ultimately make enforcement possible.

      tz in reply to Paul. | July 12, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      They could stop it tomorrow if they just also provided the ANI – which is the BILLING actual hard landline number. 800 service used to provide this even when caller ID was blocked.

      Each ANI, i.e. billing number, could be matched with the origination number, and if they don’t match or is not in a range (xxxyyy1000 might represent 1000-1250 or something), then it is blocked.

      Also you could block by ANI – not block the number but report spam and blacklist the ANI.

    Yep. And the “do not call” list is useless. Most of these calls originate outside of the US. Seems to me that there could be some kind of electronic hurdle created to require certification of origin at a check point.

The Friendly Grizzly | July 12, 2019 at 10:55 am

Question: will there be the same exceptions that the National Do Not Call List allows? Political robo-calls; charities; “non-profits”, and those great Police Assistance League calls to arm-twist you for youth programs, DARE seminars (we know where you live), and other such things?

2smartforlibs mentioned workarounds, and I am sure the spammers are working on it. Darn it.

Me? I VERY seldom get junk calls. I have NO idea if any of the following helps, but, here goes:

I am not on any of the well-known data-miner sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I deleted WhatsApp when it became a Facebook property.

I don’t enter contests.

I don’t answer surveys.

When a phone number is not required for some form I am filling out, I don’ give one. If it is, I use my burner; see next entry.

When shopping for something like insurance, a new vehicle, or similar, I put some time on a burner phone I have, and use it to do my calling-around. I use a junk email address as well, so as not to clog up my regular account. Only after I decide to buy or insure, do I give my actual information. I do the same when I use an on-line shopping site for the first time. If I get an increase in calls, or junk email, that merchant is not used again.

Loyalty card programs like the grocery store or gasoline programs like Fuel Rewards: the phone number on file with them is my burner. I turn it on and test it every month and delete any incoming voicemails that are not pertinent. Aside from that it is kept ONLY in case my regular phone provider goes down and I have an emergency.

My “land line” is in fact done through a cell network and so is “seen” as a mobile. So, up until recently when the regulators allowed telemarketing to mobiles, it helped. Besides, I pay $18 a month for what would cost $48.00 over twisted-pair. It uses standard land-line instruments, has a dial tone, etc.

When the phone rings – whether the landline or the mobile – and I don’t recognize the number, I let it drop to voicemail. To olhardhead: I check for voicemails a minute or so after the ringing stops. If I am dying of cancer or the yaws, one or two minutes are not that critical.

Your experiences may be different.

Thing is, will they do a better job than they do on email spam?
And email spam is actually easier to track and to stop than robocalls.

I don’t hold out much hope which is why I like Magic Jack (among other reasons)

And they also manage to get their robo calls out on cell phones too. But I’m unique and know most of the ppl who would call me and the phone #’s so I ignore any that I don’t know.

When the caller ID is different then the actual number this is a fraudulent call and should be automatically blocked.

When I call a number that charges me I should have the option of canceling the call without charges.

healthguyfsu | July 12, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Yang’s plan is high on simple logic but short on practicality and details.

How exactly is the FCC going to do this “investigation”?

As others have said, tracing the original source due to masking technologies is a lot harder than it sounds.

The federal ‘DO NOT CALL LIST’ is a joke. Sometimes I press the numbers to get to a live person, and when I get him/her [usually a guy whose name is Bob and sounds like he lives in Bombay], I blow this super loud whistle I bought on Amazon and blow his eardrums out. It certainly makes me feel better after I do it.

    Ironman in reply to walls. | July 12, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    You are hurting yourself with that system. You have confirmed that you are a live person and they turnaround and sell your information to other robocallers.

Yang’s plan won’t work. Most of the illegal robocallers use some sort of technology that changes the number in caller ID.

I’ve been getting one robocall consistently once or twice a week for months. It always looks like a number from my state of residence, but it’s always a different number, but the message they leave is exactly the same.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Germany on business. I got the same robocall twice while I was there, but the caller ID made it look like they were calling from a German number.

A couple of years ago, there was one that called me ever day at least once a day for weeks, I finally got fed up and answered the phone. I pretended like I was interested in what they were selling but didn’t have time to talk right now and asked for a call-back number (I was going to give that number to the FCC), but as soon as I asked for a number, they hung up. They’re not stupid.

Like others on here, I’ve just gotten in the habit of not answering calls if the incoming number isn’t in my contacts list. If it’s a real call, they’ll leave a message and I can call them back. It’s a real shame that we can so easily be harassed by our own technology. It’s gotten to where I hate hearing the phone ring. Used to be a good thing.

SInce I have a bad knee, I take the attitude of not rushing to take the call – my friends will leave a voice mail or I’ll recognize the number and call back.

Yesterday, I picked up a call, since it was listed as the city offices, but it was a robocall. I called the number back and it was for a police detective. I left a polite voice mail to tell him that his number had been spoofed. I called the non emergency number this morning and the officer was nice and verified that there was nothing related to my name. “Thanks and have a great day, Officer!”

I have a “junk email” account to use when you have to give an email. I like the idea of using a “burner” phone for when you have to give out a number. Somewhere, I have a small prepaid phone that I got for my mom for emergencies. I guess I need to see if it still works. Thanks for that idea, Grizzly!

    cucha in reply to Liz. | July 12, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    You fell for the scam. Never, ever call back, even if you have reasons yo brlirve the spoofed number is legit.

Whoever thought Voice Over IP at barely no cost was a good idea should be shot.

If spammers had to actually spend money on their calls, they wouldn’t exist, but thanks to Voice Over IP, they can spam at will.

Whoever thought Voice Over IP at barely no cost was a good idea should be shot.

If spammers had to actually spend money on their calls, they wouldn’t exist, but thanks to Voice Over IP, they can spam at will..

I am sure this will work as well as Facebook’s efforts to block “fake news”….. ????

I use It mostly works but some get through which you can report.

Unknown3rdParty | July 12, 2019 at 7:02 pm

Most cell phones registered with wireless providers have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers on the SIM cards that associate them to a registered wireless provider. Landlines have a registered location, as do cell phone accounts. The solution is simple … and complex. Many robocalls are from spoofed numbers, right?

Well, for every phone call made from a landline, if the originating location of an outbound call does NOT match up with the address of that number, for every phone call made from a cell phone, if the calling number does not match up with the registered IMEI number of that phone, the call should be terminated.

Blocking the scammers would be a start, but this is the 21st century. We should have the technology to launch a drone strike on their phones when they call.

“As President, I will initiate a robo-calling text line.”

Once we have the robocalling problem solved we will take on Social Security funding and North Korean nukes.

We stopped answering the phone about a year ago as the caller ID had been completely contrived. Now, if anyone wants to contact us, they send an email and let us know if a phone call is in the works.