Robocalls are to cell phones what spam is to email. Useless calls that nobody wants or needs, generously peppered with scams to steal your money or personal information.
A recent look at my call blocker logs shows that I received over 90 calls from telemarketers and potential scammers in April alone. I know from my experience with the app that the majority of these were automated calls. However, it appears I am not alone in my plight against these annoying disturbances.
According to stats released by YouMail, a popular call monitoring app, “3.4 billion robocalls were placed nationwide in April 2018, equaling roughly 10.4 calls per person affected.” Although I switched from YouMail to another service, I'm saddened to see that I’m well above their recorded average.
Even more saddening is that the problem is only getting worse. Automated calls have increased by 900 million calls since this time last year. The surge in spam calls comes despite efforts from regulators and telecoms to reduce such abuse.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and the National Do Not Call Registry established in 2003 have done very little to stem the tide of telemarketers, both legitimate and otherwise, even though the registry now contains almost 230 million numbers.
Data gathered by YouMail shows robocalls suffered a significant but brief decline when FCC regulations kicked in last fall. (Image via YouMail)
Scam callers are continually looking for ways to circumvent laws, regulations, and blocking methods. Technology has enabled companies to not only call anonymously by spoofing numbers but also by using machines to make the calls so more numbers can be reached in a day than by having humans conduct the dialing.
While the problem is increasing, it is not being ignored by regulators. In just the last two weeks, both the House and the Senate have either passed or introduced bills to combat robocalls. These measures are in addition to regulations enacted in 2017 allowing telecoms to block certain types of calls.
However, being that most scam calls travel through various networks and cellular providers, they are hard to trace to an originating location. Even then most scammers reside outside the jurisdiction of the United States so little, if anything, can be done to punish or stop the callers.
It seems that the only real way to fight robocalls is to develop better technology to identify the calls as they come in. Call blockers like YouMail or AT&T's Call Protect, while not perfect, are at least good enough at holding back most scam calls. It is one of those cases where some defense is better than none at all.