PSTN SPAM and its impact on Enterprise Communications

tadhack-2017-mini-orlando-banner-v4-5PSTN SPAM is on the rise in the US. A simple survey of my US-based friends shows those with iPhones, that lack the filtering provided by Android, are suffering multiple calls per day. My Nexus 5X has some nice filtering tools, I’m seeing 3 or 4 per week.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans made 3.5 million complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls in 2015. In 2016, that number rose to 5.3 million. The FTC has not yet released the 2017 numbers, it could be well over 8 million.

That’s just complaints, people actually spending the time to complain to the FTC, which runs the ineffective Do Not Call list. According to YouMail, a call-blocking service, a staggering 2.5 billion robocalls were placed nationwide in April 2017.

The end result of this is people are changing their phone call behavior, if its not a number on their contact list, its ignored. Even if its a 866 or 800 or other ‘business’ like phone number. People are assuming the Caller ID has been spoofed, which is the reason the Do Not Call list is no longer effective.

We’re also seeing SMS spam again, as the spammers work around the filters the carriers put in place 5+ years ago. SMS spam is less annoying as its a smaller % of overall messages and is easier to ignore. My latest SPAM SMS was today from +1 669 222 9667 with a link to a YouTube video of some guy making a chicken dish with onions, very weird.

The PSTN spam creates a problem for enterprises in communicating with their customers. I’ll give a personal example, however, we’re seeing many scenarios where the PSTN is now failing in supporting traditional enterprise workflows.

I received a call from an 866 number multiple times this week. I ignored it, they left a voice message, which is unusual for a spam call, but not that uncommon. It was an automated message from a company name I had not heard of asking about arranging a delivery with no personalization. I ignored it. When they’d left the third voice message, I questioned the spammers business model. So I called the number just to see what the spammer was selling. It was a delivery for an item I’d ordered from Modloft last year.

Enterprises can no longer rely on the PSTN like that have in the past, its hacked. The incompetent / corrupt FCC and soon to be over loaded FTC are simply not up to the job.

When communicating with customers it is critical for enterprises to:

  • PERSONALIZE. Use the name of the business I have a relationship with, in my case ‘Modloft furniture order’ not only the name of the delivery firm who I have no relationship with. This provides some personal identifiable information to rise above the spam. BUT this assumes I listen to the voice message, which increasingly is not the case.
  • MULTI_CHANNEL. If the call does not get an answered, immediately send an SMS (using the same phone number used to make the call, if that is not possible listing the phone # used), and the original communications mechanism (email in this case, with the phone # used for the call/SMS). Getting the phone # onto my contact list is key to standing out from the spam.

Now there are initiatives telcos are slowly, ever so slowly, trying to implement. And enterprise adoption of those initiatives will also likely take years when/if telcos get their act together. In the interim, programmable telecoms is the only way enterprises can rise above the noise of PSTN spam using personalization and multi-channel communications.

In Orlando in March the weekend before Enterprise Connect, the largest enterprise telecoms event on the planet, is TADHack-mini Orlando on the 10-11 March. Your chance to get hands-on experience of using programmable telecoms to solve problems like the one described above.