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!


Update: We recommend keeping the Republic App up to date at all times. For the best experience with our Spam Call Blocking feature, please be sure you have updated the Republic app to version 3.28.5 or newer.

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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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You know at this point, if Republic wanted to up the ante in blocking spam calls, I would target any call coming from a number on Onvoy’s (a Bandwidth competitor) network. These days it seems every spam call I receive originates from a number on Onvoy’s network.

Cloudmark used a nice system for detecting spam mail. They let users vote on when a message was considered spam, and then relied on the user feedback to block subsequent messages. I’d like to see a feature in the Republic app that let me answer a call and then mark it as spam during the call, which would immediately end the call and them add it to the spam list.

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I really hope this works. I probably get 5-10 spam calls per day, but I never want to block the numbers because they just spoof different local numbers all the time. Blocking the number won’t do anything.

Car warranty. Home security system. Business loan. Credit card interest rate. SSN fraud activity. The list goes on.

I don’t get why telecoms can’t block this easier. If a call is coming from India or Pakistan and is spoofing a number in my area code, BLOCK IT!

Hello,

I tend to be hesitant to enable any feature that makes autonomous decisions of this type. However, it would be enormously useful to have a “spam score” attached to each incoming call, and perhaps an indication of what the spam blocker would have done. Perhaps that is a feature that might be developed?

Thank you!

I have my settings configured to send all calls to voicemail UNLESS they are in my contact list on the phone. That works quite well for me because people who I want to talk to are in the contact list. I set specific ring tones for certain people so that I can tell who it is if I am busy.
It works for me - spam calls are a thing of the past. Anyone I who is not in the list will leave a message the first time they call, I add them to contacts and they get through after that.

We’ve heard this for decades. What about big data, algorithms and a couple smart coders who have already figured out targeted advertising and election manipulation? The carriers could block robo calls in 2 weeks but that would impact their revenue - it’s the same situation Zuckerburg is in - his investors are all about the short term revenue stream but what the VCs and the boys and their toys forget is that the internet and the cell phone frequencies are public domains and should embody something for the common good - not just their bottom line.

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I didn’t realize this even existed… I just enabled it. How does it compare with the call blocking function built into the Android phone app? I already mark/block phone numbers in that. Should I continue doing that?

Hi @johng.6r5jad,

We’re glad we were able to bring this to your attention.

It acts independently of the call blocking feature built into Android. This feature offers the option to block calls before they ring your phone and prevent them from going to voicemail. The Android feature will send the calls that do reach your phone to voicemail. You can use both features, they will not conflict with one another.

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CAVEAT! My wife and I have both been using the RW blocker since inception. About 2 weeks ago, suddenly we couldn’t receive any calls from my stepson or his wife. Their calls to both of us went immediately to voice mail. Their attempted calls did not show up on our call logs or on our blocked number lists. When we turned off the RW spam blocker, the calls went through.

They are on a Sprint family plan, along with 3 grandkids. Grandkids had no problem calling us. Neither of their 2 phones are in any way used for any kind of marketing, much less spamming. We filed a help ticket and wound up sending RW a screenshot of our blocked calls and their 2 telephone numbers. After days of working on the problem, RW found both of their numbers were on the RW spam list. They were removed and now everything works again. No explanation was possible.

I’m uncertain what this means? Granted, I’m about to speculate, however, it’s possible the numbers in question were being spoofed and used for spam. My understanding is Republic uses a third party partner to identify spam calls. Generally, this is done through a scoring system. The partner doing the scoring might see what appears to be the numbers being used in a pattern suggesting spam calls. Said partner typically won’t see whether the calls are actually coming from that number or being the number is being spoofed. This is an inherent trade off in proactive spam blocking. There will be false positives.

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Your “guess” is as good as any. I didn’t mean my comment as a putdown. Just a warning to the community if it pops up again. And, as the engineers were working on the problem, I’m guessing I and my wife weren’t the first.
Spoofing? I thought about that, but what are the chances a spoofer got both my stepson’s and his wife’s numbers?

They don’t need to get them. They really don’t care to whom the number belongs. It would be random chance.

Yeah, I guess there some people who have won the lottery more than once. So possible, but pretty improbable. Who knows? But others should be aware of the possibility of compromise.

It would be nice to be able to block an entire area code. I moved to another state, and most of my spam comes from spoofed area codes from my former home state.

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