coronavirus

Coronavirus Slows Dreaded Robocalls

Experts said Americans received half the number of robocalls from just six months ago, but they don't expect the peace and quiet to last.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

It took a global pandemic to stop the one thing we all can’t stand: robocalls.

Americans received 2.9 billion robocalls in the month of April, according to data collected by YouMail, a robocall blocking company. That’s about half the 5.6 billion automated calls that rang phones in October 2019.

“Call centers around the globe have either shut down or gone to far fewer employees in the call center at one time because of social distancing,” said Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail.

Chicago still ranks as the 5th most robocalled city in the U.S., YouMail data shows. The 773 and 708 area codes, which received 21 million and 13.1 million automated calls in April respectively, had by far the most, but those numbers also reflect a sharp decline from just two months ago.

However, Quilici said he doesn’t expect this to last.

“We’re already seeing evidence that calls are creeping back up. We’re seeing the call centers start to distribute, so people are working from home,” Quilici said.

The downturn of robocalls during the pandemic comes with an uptick of coronavirus scam calls, Quilici said.

“One of the ones we saw recently creep up was an electric bill scam that said because of COVID-19, you’re eligible for a 50 percent discount on your electric bill,” Quilici said. “It’s basically identity theft and financial fraud happening to people who are desperate to try to save some money now.”

Consumers may get some relief from robocalls from new rules just implemented this month by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC will no longer warn the worst robocall offenders before issuing fines.

“Now, as soon as the FCC collects information, it can basically put out a fine for the robocaller without having to go to this sort of warning or yellow card kind of behavior first,” Quilici said. “It’s great because it allows the FCC to move a lot faster.”

Experts recommend installing a robocall blocking app to your phone, which tells scammers that your number is a dead line. Consumers should also not pick up or return calls to an unknown number.

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