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Robocalls hit an all-time high in May

As the calls continue to mount, the FCC ups its efforts to crack down on the nuisance

Photo (c) PhonlamaiPhoto - Getty Images
Robocalls shattered a U.S. record in May, with more than 4 billion calls placed -- a 40 percent increase since January. Over a quarter of those calls were scams.

According to robocall-blocking software developer YouMail and its Robocall Index, the first place trophy for most scam calls placed goes to the Interest Rate Scam, a swindle that offers zero-percent interest rates to trusting consumers in exchange for their personal financial details.

Now, with summer vacations and the upcoming school year being top-of-mind, there are new scams lurking. Those include the Student Loan Scam which guarantees student loan forgiveness to hopeful graduates, and the Travel Scam, which offers free trips to naive vacationers. Travel scams are the robocall du jour, increasing 162 percent in the last two months alone.

“Despite the best efforts of regulators, industry groups, service providers, and app developers to stop scam robocalls, we are warning consumers to remain vigilant by not picking up any calls from unfamiliar numbers, using robocall blocking apps, and researching numbers before calling them back,” commented YouMail CEO Alex Quilici to ConsumerAffairs.

Is there an end in sight?

While there seems to be little progress in the 27 years since Congress enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are trudging forward in their battle with robocall bandits via lawsuits and million dollar fines like the one levied on the Dish Network. Nonetheless, there are consumer groups shouting that the rules don't go far enough.

In response, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the agency is working to “stop the scourge of illegal robocalls” and is soliciting consumer input for an upcoming report on robocalling. The focus of that report is the success of combating illegal calls and the hurdles still to be cleared.

In his comment to the FCC, attorney Victor Wandres aired his feelings on the matter, saying “Everyone knows that robocalls are out of hand. I receive several per day, interrupting my work. Just because a consumer provided his cell phone number once to a company does not mean that she shouldn't be able to tell that company to stop calling her if the calls from the company are getting out of hand.”

“A consumer should only have to tell a company ONCE that they have the wrong number and not to call him again without having to deal with a computer constantly calling him back looking for someone else,” Wandres said.

Steps consumers can take

Besides using robocall-blocking phone apps and simply not answering a call from an unfamiliar phone number, FCC chief Pai offers consumer tips to avoid scam robocalls and spoofing.

Consumers wishing to comment on the FCC’s latest inquiry into robocalls can find out how to express their opinion here. Comments are due July 20, 2018.

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