In a recent Uncarrier move, T-Mobile® and their prepaid brand Metro® are kicking the Call Labeling and Call Blocking action up a couple of notches. During a series of July 2020 announcements featuring enormous fanfare, endless TV ads and an extensive push on social media, T-Mobile projected itself as the self-proclaimed winner of the scam wars and urges their competitors to hurry and play catch up. T-Mobile and Metro position their new ScamShield service as the consumer’s ‘call control center’ for harnessing a super-charged, A.I. empowered, machine learning enabled anti-scam engine.
A truly high power and high dollar marketing message, but in reality, the latest ScamShield announcement is not so much a radical, “Uncarrier” move as it is a repackaging and a repricing of the robust Call Labeling & Call Blocking technologies and services T-Mobile has been rolling out for several years now.
In this article we unpack exactly what T-Mobile’s ScamShield announcement is, who is getting these new call labeling and call blocking solutions, and just how different ScamShield is compared to what the other carriers are doing. Plus, we identify the one thing every outbound call center must do in response to ScamShield’s activation on all T-Mobile and Metro customer.
ScamShield. What is it?
The new ScamShield is a portfolio of call labeling and call blocking solutions. It includes several call labeling and call blocking capabilities which were previously available as separate features and tools from both T-Mobile and Metro. The key call labeling and call blocking tools now included in ScamShield are Scam ID, Scam Block and Name ID. These tools perform call labeling and call blocking functions that sound a lot like their names. For example, Scam ID identifies scam calls and presents the call label “Scam Likely” to consumers for calls that T-Mobile deems as being made for scam or fraud purposes. All T-Mobile and Metro customers have had Scam ID enabled on their T-Mobile and Metro service since 2017.
Scam Block is another free service any T-Mobile or Metro consumer has been able to turn on by simply dialing #662# from their phone for the past few years. T-Mobile even held social media based “Block Parties” educating consumers about the Scam Block feature. Similarly, the Name ID service has been available to both T-Mobile and Metro consumers since 2018 in both a free and a premium version. The free version was nothing more than an app-based way to turn on Scam Block. But the Premium version of Name ID extended the scam identification, labeling and blocking capabilities to other call types such as nuisance calls, telemarketing, political and survey calls.
In addition to these tools that directly support and manage call labeling and call blocking, as part of ScamShield, T-Mobile and Metro users will now get free enhanced Caller ID to display the name of the caller. This is arguably the biggest change for both the consumer and for the typical outbound caller.
Prior to ScamShield, all carrier-provided enhanced Caller ID services that displayed a caller’s name were paid services, so consumer adoption was quite low. This led to many outbound calls being displayed with only a phone number and perhaps the city and state on most calls. Now, for all consumers of the second largest carrier in the USA, your business name is being displayed on all incoming calls automatically. Because so many consumers will now see your business name on incoming calls, outbound callers need to verify the exact presentation of their business name. Where the business name presented on incoming calls does not properly display your company name to the consumer, quick action needs to be taken to get your business name fixed. Common business name display issues include strange abbreviations of your business name – or even displaying some other company name altogether.
Sweetening the ScamShield pie even more, T-Mobile and Metro also added a service that more savvy consumers can use to better control their incoming calls. It is called “Proxy by Digits”. Digits is an existing T-Mobile and Metro service that allows up to 5 phone numbers to be assigned to a single phone or device. As part of the ScamShield solution, your first Digits phone number, now referred to as Proxy, is free. The idea is that this ‘extra’ phone number can be given out to ecommerce sites or other places where your phone number is likely to end up on spam lists. Then, the user can set this Proxy number to ring differently than their regular number – or they can even send calls to their Proxy number straight to voicemail. Both the ScamShield and Digits services, as well as their respective apps are required to use the Proxy by Digits capability. It remains to be seen how many consumers will make the effort to configure and use two separate apps to control this aspect of their incoming calls – but the first Digits number is now free for those who are so inclined.
Finally, in another revenue impacting move for T-Mobile and Metro, the ScamShield solution allows their subscribers to get a clean slate and change their phone number once a year at no charge. Other carriers charge up to $36 for a number change. For consumers whose phone number has become widely distributed among spammers, starting fresh with a new number may be the best, and now a free option.
All of these tools and features are now showcased in a free ScamShield app that enables T-Mobile and Metro subscribers to manage the entire portfolio of call labeling and call blocking tools. The ScamShield app itself is essentially an update to T-Mobile’s former Name ID app. In fact, other than the fresh new logo and updated colors, most of the ScamShield screens remain the same as they were in the Name ID version of the app. The old Name ID app has been replaced by the ScamShield app in both Google’s Play Store and the Apple App Store. Former Name ID users were automatically updated to the new ScamShield app in August 2020.
The ScamShield app provides T-Mobile and Metro subscribers a fresh-looking, easy-to-use, 1-stop app to control the complete set of call labeling and call blocking tools. Inside the ScamShield app, subscribers can:
The Scam ID service that is part of the ScamShield suite is a network-based solution that is enabled for all T-Mobile and Metro subscribers. Notably, Scam ID cannot be turned on or off or be controlled from within the ScamShield app.
Like other carriers, T-Mobile and Metro also offer a premium version of their free app. With the $4 a month Premium version of the ScamShield app, users can also:
Who gets ScamShield?
All T-Mobile and Metro customers will see some impact from the new ScamShield service. For those who have not previously paid for premium upgrades on services like Name ID or Digits, they are already seeing free, enhanced Caller IDs on all incoming calls. They also have access to a free Proxy by Digits phone number.
T-Mobile and Metro consumers who paid for enhanced Caller ID or Digits will see a reduction in their monthly bill as these services are now free.
Is ScamShield Really All That Different? Well, Yes and No…
To answer the question as to whether what T-Mobile and Metro are doing on the call labeling and call blocking front is really as unique and cutting-edge as they claim in their Uncarrier ScamShield promotions, we consider three angles.
Free services: Yes. Perhaps nothing endears consumers to their mobile carrier more than getting free stuff. T-Mobile and Metro’s move to make enhanced Caller ID free to all of their subscribers, regardless of which type of plan they are on or what type of phone they have, will likely force the other major carriers to follow suit in the coming months. As mentioned previously, this will have a huge impact on the practices of outbound callers. Outbound callers will now have to pay attention to what business name is presented on calls to consumers. Furthermore, those outbound callers who have long relied on the fact that so few consumers have a paid caller ID service will soon lose their outbound calling anonymity. When it comes to free services, ScamShield gets an A-plus!
Technology: No. A big part of T-Mobile’s ScamShield message revolves around the fact that their ‘advanced scam-blocking protection is built right into our core network’. That is true – but not so different than the others. All of the major mobile carriers now capture every call being made to their subscribers, manage the call termination while they, or their Analytics Partner, perform ‘reasonable analytics’ to make a decision whether to label or even block the call, then allow it to proceed accordingly. This is done for each and every call that arrives at their network. While the details may vary from carrier to carrier – there is nothing earth-shattering about ScamShield using the network for call labeling and call blocking.
One aspect of T-Mobile’s technology approach that is a bit different is the way they have chosen to display to their subscribers the calls they decide to label. Rather than presenting graphics or icons for incoming calls like the others, T-Mobile has elected to display call labels in the traditional Calling Name format that is supported on all mobile phones. So, while other carriers only support certain devices for their call labeling efforts, T-Mobile and Metro’s call labels display cleanly on every phone they sell, right ‘out-of-the-box’. This is likely to be a short-lived advantage for T-Mobile and Metro as most newer phones are now sold with the advanced call labeling display capabilities. In fact, what was once an advantage may turn to a problem for T-Mobile and Metro as consumers become accustomed to seeing the more advanced enhanced Calling Name solutions with caller logos, call purpose and other information for the caller. These solutions are favored by AT&T and Verizon and require newer incoming call display technology than what T-Mobile and Metro currently rely on.
Market Positioning: Definitely Yes! Perhaps the key differentiator for the ScamShield solution will turn out to be the way they have presented their solution to the market with such slick fanfare and the way they framed their call labeling and call blocking efforts in the public’s eye. Despite spam calls being the number one complaint of consumers and the singular issue blamed for the ‘loss of trust’ in the telephone system, the other carriers have simply failed to address the issue outside of the confines of FCC hearings. There has been little public messaging describing how AT&T or Verizon or US Cellular are addressing the problem of spam and scam calls – certainly nothing on the scale of T-Mobile’s recent efforts. When was the last time you saw an AT&T Call Protect or a Verizon Call Filter commercial? Meanwhile, T-Mobile’s savvy marketing machine has framed their offering under the banner of SCAM identification, SCAM blocking and a SCAM shield. Sure, they still label legitimate calls as spam – but in the court of public opinion, their slick claims of being the protector of subscribers from evil scammers has allowed them to take the high ground from other carriers, at least for now…
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