AT&T becomes first major wireless company to automatically block spam calls

Posted: Updated:
(CNN) -

AT&T customers could soon be free of having to deal with annoying spam calls — or at least that’s AT&T’s plan.

On Tuesday, AT&T became the first major US wireless company to automatically block robocalls for its customers. The free service comes after a June Federal Communications Commission ruling that allows phone service providers to offer call-blocking on an opt-out basis. AT&T owns WarnerMedia, the parent company of CNN.

“The Commission’s recent action builds on a years-long effort to enable broader adoption of call-blocking tools and allow providers to better protect their customers and networks,” AT&T said in a statement. “AT&T remains committed to working with our government and industry partners in the ongoing battle against unwanted and illegal robocalls.”

Spam calls are an annoyance for just about everyone with a cell phone. At times, they are illegal scams. They can be difficult to detect because they often come from the receiver’s own area code. More than 4.3 billion robocalls, both legal and illegal, were placed last month, according to industry data.

Robocall blocking uses algorithms and network scanning to identify unwanted calls, similar to how email providers scan for spam messages.

AT&T’s service will attempt to block fraudulent calls and alert customers when a call may be spam. It will be available on all new lines and added in the coming months to existing customer lines. Those customers will be notified by text when the service is active.

The company already provided call blocking to mobile customers who downloaded the AT&T Call Protect app or opted in via their account settings. Landline customers had also been able to opt in. Now, AT&T customers will only have to opt out via their account settings if they don’t wish to have calls blocked.

Other carriers offer similar options, though AT&T is so far the only to automatically block calls. T-Mobile provides automatic scam call alerts, and customers can opt-in to block those calls for free. Verizon’s service works essentially the same way. Sprint offers a caller ID service, which it says may identify spam calls, for $2.99 per month.

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