June 2020 Update to Our Spam Call Blocking Feature

Hello Community!

We are excited to announce a big improvement to our spam call protection for our My Choice members!

In case you didn’t already know, we support spam call blocking right in the Republic App and it has already blocked over 1 million calls from reaching our members.

Our spam blocker works by keeping an updated, running list of likely spam numbers. If you have the spam block feature enabled and one of the numbers on the list calls you, we either block the call or send it right to voicemail (depending on your preference) without the call ever ringing your phone.

Starting in Republic App 3.28.1, we grew our list size to over 500k numbers daily. This is a huge increase in the total spam numbers we’re tracking each day and translates to 4-5x more spam calls blocked per day than were previously blocked.

And we are still being extremely cautious about avoiding blocking calls that aren’t very high risk; despite more calls being blocked, you don’t have to worry about us blocking important calls. If that remains a concern for you, you can always opt to send these calls right to voicemail to screen them.

To receive this enhanced spam list, just make sure you have the feature enabled in the Republic App and are running version 3.28.1 or higher – that’s it!

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despite more calls being blocked, you don’t have to worry about us blocking important calls.

I’d love more information about why we don’t have to worry about important calls being blocked. If a number is blocked today because it’s a fictitious number used by spammers, but tomorrow is assigned to a real person…is there a protocol for handling this scenario? Is this even a realistic concern?

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Remember that because this is happening in the network, it doesn’t have to work this way. Spoofing Caller ID is simple, and as the consumer, that’s all the data you see. The network operators on the other hand can see the actual call routing, it’s actual source, etc. Because of this they can block calls based on the actual origin and routing of the call, regardless of the Caller ID that is being spoofed.

WARNING: I AM SPECULATING. I HAVE NO IDEA THAT THIS IS THE WAY THE REPUBLIC SYSTEM ACTUALLY WORKS BUT BELIEVE IT IS A REASONABLE ASSUMPTION.

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The network operators on the other hand can see the actual call routing, it’s actual source, etc.

That would be VERY reassuring! I hope it does work this way. Hope someone will reply to verify one way or another. Thanks for speculating @louisdi :smiley:

@spaghettichef @louisdi
Unfortunately, we can’t tell if numbers are spoofed or not.

TL;DR to your question is: a number has to be pretty bad to be on the bad list, and numbers that were bad (mainly because of spoofing) but recovered to show normal traffic patterns are quickly moved back to the good list. This is handled all by a 3rd party service who we’ve vetted thoroughly.

While we have lots of call traffic to analyze, it’s very challenging to separate out the real bad guys from numbers like banks, schools, delivery services, etc., that legitimately call many different numbers in short time spans.

So we’ve partnered with a 3rd party service to leverage their spam blocking tools which rates many different numbers of a scale of risk. We are pretty conservative when it comes to blocking calls. A number has to be running an aggressive spam campaign for a long time for it to be blocked. As soon as the number’s patterns drop back to “normal,” that number will be moved back to the good list. We have the option to block roughly ~40% more spam calls by easing back on this restriction, but that’d greatly increase the risk of us blocking good calls too. Maybe someday that option is exposed via the app but that is not currently under consideration.

All of this said, if a legitimate number happens to fall victim to a long-running and nasty spoofing campaign, it may be blocked if you have this feature enabled. You can always turn it to allow voicemails or off completely if this is a concern.

(As a Data Scientist, I’d love nothing more than to find a model with 100% precision and recall, but I think it’s easier to find a unicorn in the wild.)

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I liked your post for that alone. If only all data scientists were as humble.

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