Since USTelecom established the Industry Traceback Group (ITG) in 2015, the ITG has played a central and ever-growing role in the battle against illegal robocalls. In July 2020, the ITG was designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fulfill the role of the official Congressionally-mandated traceback consortium.

The ITG’s operations are managed by a small team of employees and contractors who work daily with numerous industry and government partners to identify sources of illegal robocalling campaigns.

In 2020, over 350 providers participated in ITG tracebacks of suspected illegal robocalls
Over 40 voice service provider support the ITG

The Challenge

The illegal robocall campaigns targeted by the ITG range from burgeoning robocall scams seeking to prey on fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic to government and brand impersonations to telephony denial of service (TDoS) attacks on hospitals and public safety phone lines.

  • In 2020, Americans fell for scam callers 270% more often than in 2019
  • 90% of scam calls from abroad now show up as U.S. numbers.
  • 89% of seniors receive at least one robocall per week, while more than half (56%) receive at least seven robocalls per week.

The Traceback Process

Using a secure traceback portal, suspected illegal robocalls are traced systematically back through various networks until the ITG identifies the originator of the suspicious calls, where the calls entered the United States if internationally originated, and often the identity of the calling party.

Average time to complete a traceback fell by over 50% in 2020 to approximately 4 days
Average time to complete an individual hop is now less than a day
Many providers regularly respond in less than 30 minutes

Collaboration + Results

ITG tracebacks rely on the cooperation and collaboration of hundreds of domestic and foreign voice service providers, including the over forty ITG members that support the effort. The ITG also works in close partnership with government entities who rely on ITG referrals and data to bring those individuals and entities responsible for illegal robocalls to justice.

In 2020, the ITG:

  • Received 75 subpoenas/civil investigative demands — up 275% from 2019
  • Conducted approximately 215 tracebacks per month — up 115% from 2019 and 975% in 2018
  • Initiated more than 2,500 tracebacks
  • Supported nearly one dozen enforcement actions involving nine distinct federal and state enforcement agencies, targeting nearly 50 individuals and entities

Looking Forward

In its sixth year — and first full year since being designated as the official U.S. registered traceback consortium — the ITG intends to build on its foundation and success to date. The ITG is looking to expand its partnerships with enterprises and other organizations that are victims of brand impersonation and other illegal robocall activity, as well as enhance the ways it supports voice service providers and government entities in their efforts to hold illegal robocallers and those that enable them accountable.

For sources, see the Industry Traceback Group: Combatting Illegal Robocalls report