PhotoAmerican consumers found themselves on the wrong end of a record-breaking 5.7 billion robocalls in October, according to robocall-blocking app developer YouMail. That figure represents a 25 percent jump from September, not to mention a 7 percent increase over the previous all-time high of 5.2 billion robocalls in March 2019. 

YouMail’s tracking update shows that robo-scammers have placed approximately 49 billion calls so far in 2019 — more than the total received during all of of 2018 — and we still have another month to go. 

"Here we go again – October's record robocall volume reminds us there's a long way to go before the robocall problem is solved," said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. "It's hard to imagine, but we are still on pace to wind up with nearly 60 billion calls to U.S. consumers this year."

It’s hunting season for health-related scams

Topping the list were scam-oriented calls, which made up 47 percent of all robocalls. There were five types of scams with upwards of 100 million calls each, with health-related scams being the angle worked most often. Below is a list of the top five scam calls made last month.

Rank

Type of Scam

Estimated October Robocalls

Summary of Scam

1

Health-Related Scams

473.3m (+21 percent)

Identity theft/scam payments/illegal

solicitations

2

Interest Rate Scams

236.3.m (+26 percent)

Identity theft/financial scams

3

Student Loan Scams

218.5m (+24 percent)

Identity theft/scam payments

4

Social Security Scams

153.7m (+7 percent)

Identity theft/scam payments

5

Warranty Scams

105.1m (-17 percent)

Scam payments/illegal solicitations

Seniors, in particular, should brace themselves for a more robust health-related robo attacks in November due to Medicare’s open enrollment period starting on November 1.

Tired of tearing your hair out?

Of course, we could get granular with facts, such as the number of robocalls made every second (2,115).  However, the important thing that consumers want to know is when all this nonsense will stop.

A YouMail spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs that, “in spite of efforts by lawmakers on the state level (Missouri, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, to name a few) and the federal level to protect consumers from robocalls, the scammers remain undeterred. In fact, they’re making calls at record volumes.”

We haven’t seen the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s letter to Santa yet, but it’s a safe bet that the agency would like very much for robomania to go away — for sanity’s sake, if for nothing else. 

In a new study by Security.org analyzing FCC complaints over a 4-year-span, most types decreased except for one: robocalls. Security.org’s Amanda Cohen broke that metric down a little further, telling ConsumerAffairs that the total number of unwanted call reports was higher (+17.5 percent) than all other types of complaints combined between 2015 and 2018, totaling over 738,000 unwanted call reports.

An update from Capitol Hill

While FCC chairman Ajit Pai has done a good job of preaching to the choir of consumers impacted by robocalls, are his efforts making any real headway?

The short answer is “not yet.” Pai’s SHAKEN/STIR initiative was designed to speed up the implementation of Caller ID spoofing protection, and he gave carriers until the end of 2019 to get that into place. 

One congressperson — Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), the Republican leader on the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology  — says, in so many words, that some pro-Pai patience is needed.

“From SHAKEN/STIR standards, to spoofed foreign robocall rules, to robocall blocking, the FCC and Congress have worked closely together to protect consumers against scammer robocalls and spoofed fraud calls,” Latta asserted

“But we can’t do this alone,” Latta continued. “An issue as complicated and frustrating as illegal robocalls requires everyone’s effort. The best thing you can do, regardless of technology changes or regulations, is to educate yourself on how to protect yourself and your family and pass it on to your friends and neighbors. Learn the telltale signs of a scam, ask questions, and when in doubt — don’t answer the phone.”

Latta wrapped up his rallying cry for Pai by saying that “Americans deserve peace of mind knowing that the phones that connect us to the world are being used for good, not scams. Leadership from Congress and the FCC will go a long way to help ensure that these pesky, invasive calls become a thing of the past.”

One can only hope, Congressman Latta...

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