One Google Feature Can Now Stop Spam Calls

Google rolled out an update to its voice over internet service Google Voice that enables users to quickly identify and filter out unwanted spam calls.

By Kari Apted | Published

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Google Voice, the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone service founded in 2009, has now made it simpler for users to filter out spam calls. The annoying robocalls will be clearly flagged with a large red exclamation mark and a label that says, “suspected spam caller.” Not only will the warning appear when the phone rings, the flag will remain on any future calls or texts from that number.

According to the Google Workspace blog, the enhanced protection against spam calls rolled out on December 29, 2022. The company stated that it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify the billions of spam calls that enter Google’s calling ecosystem each month. Identifying potentially harmful calls can protect users from falling prey to various scams.

When users see the red exclamation mark, they can confirm that the call is spam. That will funnel any future calls directly to voicemail and file the number in a specific spam folder. If it turns out that Google wrongly flagged a non-spam call, users can label it “not spam,” and the flag will never be displayed for that number again.

Because the new feature is on a gradual rollout schedule, some Google Voice users may not notice the change until mid-January 2023. It will be available to all Google Voice customers and will appear automatically. The Google Help Center provides additional information about blocking and marking spam calls.

Tech-focused newsroom Engadget says that spam calls and texts are a massive problem that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. Google designed the flagging system to protect its customers from a barrage of unwanted—and potentially harmful—calls. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), cell phone users in the United States receive about four billion robocalls every month.

Even more alarming, Americans lost nearly $30 billion to phone call scammers in 2021 as criminals used the calls to trick or scare consumers into forking over hundreds or thousands of dollars. Advances in technology and inexpensive call routing have combined to make it easy for scammers to continue sending spam calls in ever-increasing numbers. Chris Frascella, a law fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “Until it becomes more costly to assist criminal fraud than to stop it, scammers will continue to find providers willing to accept payment for passing these dangerous and illegal calls to our phones.”

Spam calls and texts have resulted in 70% of Americans refusing to answer calls from numbers they do not recognize. Flagging systems like Google’s new method are just one of the ways the FCC recommends fighting back against the pervasive problem of spam calls. The commission is implementing new policies to combat malicious robocalls, including imposing major fines on abusers and blocking traffic from voice service providers that allow illegal spam call campaigns.

“We’re not going to stop until we get robocallers, spoofers, and scammers off the line,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “I’m a consumer, too. I receive robocalls at home, in my office, on my landline, on my mobile…I want it to stop.”

The FCC recommends that consumers continue sending suspected spam calls to voicemail and filing a complaint to assist their enforcement investigations. Consumers should also ask their phone companies to offer a robocall-blocking service like the one Google Voice has implemented. Although some spam calls will still filter through, registering phone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry can provide some protection from excessive unwanted calls.