Robocalls, Spam Likely to Surpass Legit Calls in 2019

John Lister's picture

The number of robocalls to Americans rose by nearly 50 percent last year, according to a newly-published estimate. It's consistent with other reports that suggest that 2019 will be the first year where half of all phone calls are marketing messages.

The figure comes from Hiya, a "spam-monitoring service" and is based on data from 450,000 users of its phone app. There's reason for a note of caution on the raw numbers, as it's possible the type of people who would use such an app are getting more unwanted calls than the average citizen in the first place.

That aside, Hiya says that if the experiences of its users are representative, the total number of robocalls last year was around 26.3 billion. That's up from 18 billon the previous year. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

70 Calls a Month From 'Unknown' Callers

The company also says its customers received an average of 10 robocalls each month, meaning automated messages that play when the recipient picks up. It also said customers received an average of 60 calls a month that were either from unknown numbers, or from people who weren't already in the user's contacts.

One of the biggest problems (beyond the sheer number of unwanted calls) is that the people behind robocalls have found ways to spoof their number so that the calls appear to come in from the recipients area code. That makes it more likely the recipient will answer the call.

Number Spoofing Could Be Detected

There's also a legal angle. Callers who are on the national Do Not Call Registry can take legal action against robocalls that are still calling them. However, there's some question over what exactly counts as an "automated telephone dialing system" (an official legal term for robocalling). On top of that, officials have accused lawyers of 'cashing in' with claims that are borderline of the definition of a true robocall.

For the record, calls from presidential candidates and charity calls, although automated, are not considered as a robocall.

A technical solution could be on the way, however. Major cellphone carriers have all agreed to use a technology with the odd name of SHAKEN/STIR. It's a digital certificate program similar to that used to verify who operates secure websites. The idea is that networks can confirm if the number that's showing up as making the call is correct, or warn the user if something look suspicious. (Source: nymag.com)

What's Your Opinion?

How do you deal with unwanted calls? Is legal action against robocall operators appropriate? Would you appreciate technical solutions to expose phone spammers?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

I cancelled my landline almost 10 years ago and haven't turned back. I am now using VOIP (voice over IP) because (a) it's way cheaper than a land line, (b) I have WAY more control over who calls me and can block who I don't want calling me, and (c) I rarely EVER use the land line anyway (I usually text on my smartphone).

That said, if I ever receive a call from anyone that I don't normally speak to, I login to CallCentric (my VOIP provider) and block the number immediately.

If you own a regular land line, you are at the mercy of the phone company which (based on my experience) refuses to block numbers.

On my cell phone, I add any bad numbers (robocalls / scammers) to my contact list, with the name "Spam" followed by the phone number - Example: "Spam 555-1234". After that, I block the contact and they can't call or leave a voice message. If I ever switch phones or upgrade my firmware, I will always have the bad numbers ported over.

I also believe that the "Do Not Call List" is pointless because the idiots making the calls - the spammers and scammers - don't follow that rule anyway. Plus, even if you filed a complaint there is no guarantee that anyone is going to follow up.

If you want to block the call, you need to take matters into your own hands - whether it's using the methods I've outlined or something else!

LouisianaJoe's picture

In 2001 I wrote a Do not call database for the state of Louisiana. It will not work today because spammers are using VOIP to generate the caller id phone numbers.

I recently received a call from my phone number. I did not answer it because I do not talk to myself.

buzzallnight's picture

There is a limit to the number of numbers you can block,

then what are you going to do?????????????????

Years ago there was a movement to make telephone sales illegal
and they were defeated
because the telephone sales industry said it would cause a loss of jobs.

So, all you can do is never answer your phone,
if they don't leave a message they were spam.

topgum's picture

I usually answer the phone: "Welcome to Spambusters you are on the air, Do you have a question?" Click

pctyson's picture

Most of the calls that I get are a recorded message that asks you to press a number in order to receive an "important message" therefore you can not warn the robocallers that you are on the "do not call" list. Worse yet, if you press the number, you may have just OK'd a charge to your phone bill. Also, I have used VOIP for many years and I am now getting almost as many calls on that line as I am other lines. I block the number, but they just use another number to do the same thing. I often wonder how many older folks who's mental faculties are dimished get scammed by these "people". It is clear that most mentally acute people will see the reality and just hang up on the callers. I believe in small government, but they (we) have a respopnsibility to protect the weaker ones.

infopackets_11840's picture

The phone company knows full well whom is calling whom! They actualy allow spoofing because it makes them money. They could easily stop it at the "switch" They could check to see if the caller id they are about to send reflects the caller before the connection is made. If it doesn't match, then they could either not connect the call or they could send some sort of control tone set that could tell a recieving telephone the this is a robocall, and a smart telephone could just drop it.. or not, if the "customer" likes robocalls. Personally, I do not. If there is no real solution soon, I will join the growing collection of "cord cutters". THAT will stop robocalls in their tracks!!!

Troika's picture

Here in the UK we have available for about 100GBP a device which screens calls - called trueCall.

Recognised and previously approved callers get straight through with no delay.

Previously barred callers are blocked and the telephone does not even ring.

The options for unrecognised callers include requiring them to press a specified number before continuing (a process called Shield); stating their name which is recorded and played to the recipient, who has the choice of accepting the call just this time, approving the caller and accepting the call, rejecting the call and barring the caller, or letting the caller leave a message (a process called Whisper); or a combination of Shield and Whisper.

No Robocaller (yet) is intelligent enough to press the required number, and so gets blocked without the telephone ringing. Changing the number spoofed does not bypass this check even if they have escaped the blocking check.

Human scammers seem to dislike having their voices recorded, and ring off promptly (probably scared of modern voice profiling technology) without the telephone ringing. Again, spoofing differently is as ineffective as for Robocallers.

Since installing the device I have had less than a handful of nuisance callers get through in several years, in contrast to getting several a week previously. The outlay was well worth it for uninterrupted meals and undisturbed conversations.

If such a device is not yet available in North America, perhaps it should be. Some might object to paying to keep out unwanted callers, but how many folk pay out good money for secure locks and efficient alarm systems to keep intruders out of their homes physically?

I have no connection with the manufacturer or vendor of this device, apart from being a very satisfied customer.

matt_2058's picture

"The phone company knows full well whom is calling whom! They actualy allow spoofing because it makes them money. They could easily stop it at the "switch" They could check to see if the caller id they are about to send reflects the caller before the connection is made. If it doesn't match, then they could either not connect the call or they could send some sort of control tone set that could tell a recieving telephone the this is a robocall, and a smart telephone could just drop it.. or not, if the "customer" likes robocalls. ..."

I get them on my cellphone. I confirm the company calling and then let them know I am already on the Do-Not-Call list, and to remove me from the call list or face a lawsuit. ALso called the company directly. No repeat calls so far. I also called Verizon since the spoofed numbers belonged to Verizon. I let them know they had a responsibility and should do something to help customers, theirs or not, with this. We'll see how long it lasts.