How many robocalls did you receive last month? If you have a mobile phone, it's likely you got a lot.
YouMail, a call brocker and voicemail app, estimates there were 4.2 billion robocalls received during August, a one-month record. That breaks down to 136.2 million calls a day or 1,576 every second.
Many of these calls feature the cheery voice of "Ann" informing you that your company has been approved for a loan or that you qualify for cut-rate health insurance. Increasingly, consumers hang up in the first three seconds or don't answer the call from an unfamiliar number at all.
Ironically, at a time when fewer people use their smartphones to talk to people, a robocall might be the only call you get during a day.
Obviously, someone thinks placing these calls are worthwhile because they are increasing. According to the YouMail Robocall Index, these annoying interruptions have increased more than 33 percent in the first eight months of 2018.
Many are pushing scams
An overwhelming number of these "junk" calls are pushing scams. The cheap robocall technology allows one scammer to hit many more potential victims with less effort needed than in the past, when scammers had to manually dial for their dollars.
YouMail reports the number of scam-related robocalls increased in August to 1.76 billion, nearly 42 percent of all automated calls received by consumers. So-called "good" robocalls -- alerts and reminders -- actually declined during the month. Now, when your smartphone rings, it's probably prudent to not even answer.
"As the cost of placing these calls approaches zero for many ruthless robocallers, there is little reason to expect this problem to decline anytime soon," said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici.
Health insurance scams
Quilici says the top five scam-related robocalls last month were schemes involving health insurance, interest rates, get rich quick ideas, search listings, and home improvements. He says there has been an explosion in health insurance scams that are just a pretense to collect personal information. No insurance is ever provided.
YouMail has also seen an increase in easy money scams that require victims to put up an initial investment to "get in on the ground floor."
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Terrell McSweeny has urged consumers to use some type of call-blocking tool to protect themselves from robocalls. In March, McSweeny told a government forum that there are a growing number of apps that can reduce the number of unwanted and potentially dangerous calls. Many, such as YouMail, are free.
By the way, while finishing up this article, I received a call from a New Jersey number. It was "Ann," whose recorded voice told me the "good news" that she had a "limited number of enrollments" available in attractive health plans. She just needed some information from me.