At one hospital, robocalls can be deadly

Photo (c) Charly_Morlock - Getty Images

Tufts Medical Center logged 4,500 robocalls within a two-hour period

Everyone can agree that robocalls are a nuisance. But when they occur with unending frequency and are aimed at a busy hospital’s phone lines, patients’ lives can hang in the balance.

The Washington Post reports Tufts Medical Center in Boston is grappling with a plague of robocalls, nearly all of which are scams. Hospital officials report phone lines are tied up for hours with these needless calls, preventing real patients from getting through and interrupting vital intra-hospital communications.

On one April day last year, the hospital counted more than 4,500 robocalls within a two hour period, causing multiple phone lines to ring constantly. When the calls were answered, the voice on the other end was usually speaking Mandarin, threatening whoever answered with deportation unless they turned over their sensitive personal information.

4.74 billion robocalls in May

The call-blocking app YouMail reported earlier this month that Americans put up with 4.74 billion robocalls in May. The fact that the number was down 9 percent from the all-time high in March was small consolation. It was still a lot of calls.

According to YouMail, U.S. consumers have received nearly 25 billion robocalls so far this year, with volumes averaging 152.9 million robocalls per day and 1,769 robocalls per second. 

"It's great to see robocall volumes continue to head in the right direction," YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said earlier this month. "However, we have still exceeded 25 billion robocalls so far this year, which equals over 5 billion robocalls per month."

In May, six types of scams accounted for more than 100 million calls each. Health and health insurance scams are among the most prevalent. But there are also student loan scams, interest rate reduction scams, search engine optimization scams, and a tried-and-true favorite, Social Security scams.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed new rules to help clarify that voice service providers may block illegal and unwanted calls as the default option before they reach consumers' phones.  The agency has also issued a mandate to telecom providers to find a way to block robocallers from disguising their location by spoofing local telephone numbers.

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