According to YouMail, a robocall management company, automated calls to cell phones in 2018 are up by 60% from 2017, with 48 million reaching US cell phones.
MSN reports that spammers and marketers have found ways to entice people to pick up the phone even when they don’t know the phone number. Whereas people used to be able to recognize a fake call because of its toll-free phone number in the caller ID, robocalls have become sophisticated enough to spoof a real, local number. When people don’t pick up, it just drives those behind the robocalls to work that much harder to get through.
“Scam calls have been increasing very steadily, and it’s driving people to not answer their phone,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici told CNBC. “It’s driving people to not answer their phone, and it’s kind of created this death spiral of phone calls as the robocallers ramp up their efforts and the legitimate robocalls try harder to get through.”
About 60% of robocalls, though annoying, are legitimate, meaning they are trying to sell you an actual product or service or trying to get you to support a political candidate or local bill. The other 40%, however, are simply scams. They may be warning you about the expiration of a warranty you never had, claiming you’ve won a random vacation to Hawaii, or trying to get you to enroll in a sham health insurance plan.
One of the reasons robocalling has grown to such a large industry is because of how cheap the technology has become. AT&T spokesman Andrew Morgan explains, “New, inexpensive technology and products have enabled scammers, including those located outside the US, to set up mass calling operations that can place high volumes of spoofed calls with minimal investment.”
So far, most efforts to curb robocallers have been done in vain. The Federal Communications Commission, however, wants to give ISPs the ability to block spammers from texting you and create a database of legitimate phone numbers. This may help to filter fake calls, but they also give the all-powerful wireless providers even more authority to control what happens on our personal phones, which could be a slippery slope.