Leave Me Alone: The Fight Against Illegal Robocalls

Michael Tindall

The Role of the FCC, ITG, Voice Providers, & Others

At Commio, we take reports of illegal robocalls and unwanted text messages seriously. To report an unwanted call or text, use our report a number form.

“I’m calling about your student loans…”

“Your car warranty is about to expire…”

“I just need you to verify your social security number…”

Will it ever stop?!

The Problem…

…is staggering. There were an estimated 55 billion U.S. robocalls in 2023. That’s roughly 14 calls per month for every single man, woman, and child in the country, and a 10% increase over 2022. 

The result? A financial hit of $10 billion just last year in the United States, according to the FTC, and $53 billion globally, with individual victims losing $334 on average per fraudulent call. Over a quarter of all Americans (68.4M, or 26%) fell victim in 2022.

As one might expect from these statistics, robocalls are also the most common complaint received by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the two arms of the government working together to reduce these unwanted calls, as well as state Attorneys General, mobile carriers, and more. 

What Qualifies as an Illegal Robocall?

To be clear, robocalls are simply prerecorded messages delivered by automated dialers. They are typically annoying, but many are legal, legitimate, and even helpful. They can remind you about your upcoming doctor’s appointment, for example, or share an important update from your kids’ school. Even telemarketing is legal if you’ve given your consent to be called by a business.

Unfortunately, many robocalls are fraudulent, aided by the never-ending advancements in technology:

  • They impersonate tech support, financial institutions, government agencies, and more.
  • They target more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. 
  • They attempt to scam victims out of personal data, money, or both. 

The FCC has strict guidelines about what qualifies as an illegal call. In particular, a caller cannot misrepresent who they are, or the number they’re calling from on callerID (aka, “spoofing”). Other restrictions include using a voice generated by artificial intelligence (in recent cases, some spammers have literally cloned the voices of friends and family!). Most importantly, a legitimate caller should have each recipient’s direct consent to call, and should not call anyone on the Do Not Call (DNC) list. If you didn’t authorize someone to call you, hang up (see Consumer Tips).

What is the FCC Doing to Eliminate These Calls?

The FCC has been working tirelessly for years to address the epidemic of fraudulent robocalls. Just a few of their efforts: 

  • STIR/SHAKEN protocols – designed to authenticate caller IDs and help identify the source of each call; essentially, each Voice Service Provider (VSP) must “sign” each call attesting to whether they know the customer and the phone number.
  • Collaboration with the Industry Traceback Group, sanctioned by the FCC to trace back through the various networks a call has traversed and root out the source of illegal calls (see more below).
  • Aggressive litigation – Once a source of illicit robocalls has been identified, the FCC has been vigilant in shutting it down. Remember those daily “extended car warranty” calls? Haven’t gotten one in awhile, have you?!

In 2023, the FCC also collaborated with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to target Voice Service Providers that facilitate these unwanted calls. They issued warning letters to numerous IP gateway providers urging them to comply with STIR/SHAKEN.

Who is the Industry Traceback Group?

Formed in 2015 by US Telecom, the U.S.-based telecom industry consortium, the Industry Traceback Group (ITG) has 30+ members—everyone from VSPs such as Commio, to the major carriers—plus cooperation from hundreds of other telecom businesses. The ITG’s remit includes:

  • Tracing fraudulent calls to their source, as well as identifying providers who actively or passively allow fraudulent calling on their network. This is their primary function.
  • Collaborating with legal entities, including the FCC, FTC, and other law enforcement agencies, to take action against perpetrators. Although the ITG has no direct enforcement authority, it provides enforcement agencies with critical information for pursuing cases; additionally, the FCC and the ITG may conduct joint investigations. The ITC also contributes to the development of FCC robocall policies and regulations.
  • Providing education and best practices to the industry and the public about best practices for preventing and dealing with robocalls.

The efforts of ITG have led to huge enforcement actions against illegal robocallers. In 2020, for example, the FCC, with the help of ITG, fined two Texas-based telemarketers $225 million for making approximately one billion robocalls that falsely claimed to be from major health insurance providers. The fine was one of the largest ever imposed by the FCC and highlights the importance of the ITG’s work.

How Does a Traceback Work?

Tracing illegal robocalls is a complex and time-consuming process with multiple steps:

1. Identifying Suspicious Traffic: The ITG monitors call traffic patterns to identify suspicious robocall activity. This typically involves analyzing call volume, call duration, and call destinations. Suspicious activity can also be identified by consumer complaints or even a vigilant Voice Service Provider.

2. Initiating a Traceback Request: Once suspicious activity has been identified, the ITG initiates a traceback request to the first provider/carrier in the call chain. Each VSP should already have a pre-designated contact who is prepared to deal quickly with these requests, and provide a response within 24 hours.

3. Collaborating with Providers: Each provider in the call chain supplies information about where the call came from when it entered their network. This process continues back through the chain of carriers until the origin of the call is identified.

4. Reporting Findings: Once the source of the illegal robocall is identified, the ITG reports the findings to the FCC and other relevant authorities for enforcement action (the ITG does not pursue bad actors directly).

Challenges Ahead

While the FCC, ITG, and others have made substantial progress in combating these illegal robocalls, challenges remain (and may always remain; fraud, like greed, is probably as old as humanity itself!). These include:

  • Technological Advancements: Scammers continually evolve their tactics to evade detection, using increasingly sophisticated spoofing techniques and exploiting vulnerabilities in the telecom system.
  • International Call Centers: Many illegal robocalls originate from other countries and continents, complicating enforcement.
  • Resource Constraints: Identifying and tracing robocalls is a lot of work and requires cooperation from every carrier along the way, and ultimately law enforcement agencies.

Despite these challenges, their efforts have disrupted the operations of many illegal robocallers. Continued collaboration and technological innovation are essential for further progress.


The FCC, the FTC, the ITG, and every legitimate provider in the telecommunications industry take their responsibility to consumers very seriously, and are dedicated to tracing and eliminating fraudulent calling; Commio is proud to be a proactive member of this group. As robocall technology and tactics continue to evolve, our collaborative efforts are critical in safeguarding the public and maintaining trust in our telecom systems. Through ongoing vigilance and cooperation, the industry can continue to make strides in reducing the prevalence and impact of illegal robocalls.

See also: The Role of Voice Service Providers in Fighting Robocalls, and Consumer Tips to Stop Unwanted Robocalls

Report a Phone Number

Commio works hard to keep unwanted traffic off our network. If you receive an illegal robocall on a phone number that appears to belong to Commio, we want to know! Share the details with us here.

Date posted: June 5, 2024

Topic: International   Outbound Voice  

Tags: FCC Regulations   Fraud Protection   Industry Traceback Group   Know Your Customer   Robocalls   STIR SHAKEN  

Michael Tindall

Michael Tindall leads Commio's product development and engineering teams. While attending Clemson University, Michael co-founded Tsoft Solutions, purchased by ClearSky Networks. Next he built and ran support for US Networks. Michael then worked for Bandwidth till he was approached by Aaron Leon to build a cloud-based routing system. The rest is history. Michael is a “40 under 40” winner, and one of only 18 OpenSIPS Certified professionals worldwide. When not coding the future of telecom, you’ll find him enjoying movies, cars, entertaining, and exercising.

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