Robocalls dipped earlier in COVID-19 pandemic, but now are picking back up

Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 07:40:39-04

MILWAUKEE — At the start of COVID-19, a lot of call centers where robocalls originate were closed or at a reduced capacity. So nationally, we saw a drop in the number of auto-dials.

National data from call-blocking app YouMail shows somedramatic drops in robocalls like at the end of 2020 and early on in 2021. But robocallers aren't giving up that easy.

August data shows Milwaukee saw nearly 18 million robocalls.

"The good news is we are lower than the peaks. Late 2019 was kind of the peak in robocalls which was 5.5, 5.7 billion robocalls a month. Now, we're around 4.4ish so that's a lot less than then," said Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail.

Quilici believes increased enforcement by the Federal Communications Commission played a role in the overall decrease in calls.

The FCC recently fined Texas-based telemarketers $225 million for transmitting one billion robocalls to sell short-term health insurance plans.

Also, cell carriers like A T & T, T-mobile, and Verizon installed new technology that identities spoofed calls, which is when robocallers use a fake number, sometimes with your area code, to trick you to answer.

"That enforcement does help, it makes it harder for the robocallers to get away with it. It raises their cost of doing business," said Quilici.

"Is it something the average consumer will notice even though nationally we're seeing the numbers go down?" asked Consumer Investigator Kristin Byrne.

"I think each individual's experience can differ dramatically. So we know there are consumers getting hundreds of these calls. We know there are consumers getting zero," he said.

Quilici added you may fit a certain age group or demographic robocallers are targeting. Or, if you answer and engage with these callers, you may be singled out.

So how can you try and curb these calls? The FCC provided the below tips.

Consumer Tips to Stop Unwanted Robocalls and Avoid Phone Scams

*Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.

*You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a "local" number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.

*If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.

*Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with "Yes."

*Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords, or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.

*If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.

*Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.

*If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.

*Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.

*If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.

*To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List []. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.

Below is a list of call-blocking apps you can download. Some are free, while others you pay a monthly fee.

1.) Hiya
2.) Call Control
3.) Call Blocker
4.) Nomorobo
5.) YouMail

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