Is your cell phone ringing? If so, there’s a 40 percent chance it’s a “robocall.”
Robocalls are phone calls made by automated dialers, call centers whose sole purpose is to scam or spam your phone.
According to Irvine-based tech firm, YouMail, Americans received more than 5 billion robocalls last month alone. And, the calls aren’t stopping anytime soon.
“Less than a year ago the number of calls was just over two billion robocalls,” said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. “That means the number of automated spam calls doubled over the course of just eight months.”
In San Diego County, Quilici said there were approximately 60 million robocalls. To put that in perspective, that averages out to 12 to 13 automated calls per person in 30 days.
“It’s easier and easier for automated call centers to get off the ground,” said Quilici. “They log on to a website that allows them to spoof their numbers, pay a few hundred dollars, hit a button, and boom, I have just annoyed San Diego.”
Quilici tells NBC 7 Responds that scams are driving the surge of robocalls. That one victim out of millions of automated calls makes it worth their while.
Some San Diego County residents are among the victims of those scams. One such scam targeted customers of USAA Bank. One Carlsbad couple, as first reported by NBC 7 Responds, was among those victims. Krystal Cook and her husband received a call from what appeared to be a USAA number, known as a “spoofed” number. The person on the other line said the bank detected fraudulent transactions on their debit card. The bank needed to send a new debit card. The caller then asked for the couple’s bank information. They even sent a text with a verification code and provided another spoofed USAA number to call.
A few days later the couple noticed nearly $10,000 had disappeared from their account.
So what is being done to stop those calls and the scams associated with them?
Quilici says the U.S. Government is allowing phone carriers to be more aggressive in blocking calls and spoofed numbers. The government, says Quilici, has also levied fines on some offenders and seems more willing to prosecute.
Some phone carriers are also answering the call to cut down on automated dialers. Some carriers are improving caller identification in hopes of identifying spoofed phone numbers.
“But while that will improve things, it will not stop them,” Quilici said.
So what can stop them?
NBC 7 Responds has some tips.
First and foremost: don’t answer the phone if the number is from a strange area code or is not from one of your contacts. That means regularly updating your contacts.
Second, if it looks like your bank is calling, double-check the number. Call the bank yourself instead of trusting that everything is correct.
Lastly, install a robocall blocking app for your phone such as those offered by YouMail. Those apps recognize the spoof numbers and blocks the numbers by playing an out-of-service message on your phone, meaning your number is removed from the list.
“The average person trusts the phone number. They trust the caller name and they trust the person on the other end of the line,” said Quilici. “You just can’t do that anymore.”