We all know that moment. Your phone rings and your caller ID does not identify the incoming number. You answer the call out of curiosity as it may be important. It could be a business prospect or a teacher from your child’s school. However, as soon as you start to say hello, an automated voice interrupts you and spews forth some marketing message. Annoyed, you hang up cursing yourself for falling victim to yet another scourge of the digital age, a robocall.
Only worse than receiving this sort of disturbance at home is staff fielding the calls at work. On average, for every disruption someone suffers at work they lose four minutes of productivity as they reorient themselves to the matter at hand. Robocalling is fast-becoming a major driver to increasing business overhead.
What Is a Robocall?
Robocalls, the automated delivery of a recorded message via a computerized telephone delivery system, can be useful. They are an effective way to convey a message to a broad audience in a cost-effective manner. When time is of the essence, a robocall to a large group is possibly the most effective way of communicating critical information.
For example, schools can use this medium to notify parents about delays, and banks can alert customers to possible fraudulent activities on their accounts. However, the factors that make robocalling so effective are also appealing to scammers. The ability to target a large audience that will receive and listen to their message makes a robocall campaign an attractive option. Scammers play a numbers game and only need to successfully deceive a small percentage of a large group to achieve their objectives. Robocalling is the perfect medium to realize this strategy.
How Much of an Issue Are Robocalls?
According to YouMail’s Robocall Index, the volume of robocalls in the United States has increased from 29 billion in 2016 to over 47 billion in 2018. Even though Americans receive a staggering amount of robocalls, it is difficult to classify them by legality. The standard classification identifies 30% as general spam with a further 20% as telemarketing, leaving over 50% unclassified. However, in their Scam Call Trends and Projections Report, First Orion predicts that 44.6% of calls to mobile phones will be scams in 2019.
If we combine these statistics, the prediction reveals that Americans will receive approximately 20 billion scam calls in 2019. If we extrapolate the numbers provided by YouMail, the average person receives approximately 15.8 robocalls per day. If 44% of those are scam calls, that translates to about six times each person in the US will be targeted by a scammer each day.
Is There a Way to Block Robocalls?
There are a few proven methods to prevent robocalls from spamming your phone. You could block robocalls on an ad-hoc basis, install caller identity technology to screen calls before answering them, or only accept incoming calls from known contacts. However, all these options require effort and, in many cases, can be circumvented by scammers.
The problem with these robocalling blocking solutions is that scammers often change their numbers. They also leverage a technique known as spoofing making it nearly impossible to trace their true caller identity. Spoofing involves callers disguising the phone number as other than what it is originally. In many cases, spoofers will pick up the area code and first three digits of a number that is the same as the victim’s. These two factors result in people continually needing to block and screen calls, which reduces their productivity and ability to communicate effectively.
What Can Companies Do About It?
With robocalling reaching almost epidemic proportions, carriers have started rolling out technologies to combat this modern-day scourge. In early January 2019, T-Mobile launched its Caller Verified solution. This platform uses digital signatures to verify that the call the number is coming from is legitimate and not spoofed. Verizon is following suit with the expected release of a call filtering app in March 2019. This solution promises to give phone users a range of call management features that include the capability to detect spam calls. It will also give users the ability to report a spam number that Verizon will add to a database. Businesses need to encourage — if not incentivize — staff to apply these caller solutions.
Robocalling may be a modern-day plague, but 2019 may be the year that sees the tide turn. Since the beginning of the year, the FCC released its Report on Robocalls, and two major US communication carriers have taken active steps to stem the tide of the robocalling scourge. Hopefully, spammers won’t be able any time soon to counter the anti-bot apps service providers are rolling out.
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