Stop robocalls now! We’re looking at you, iPhone users

iPhone users get more robocalls than Android users.  AT&T users get more robocalls than Verizon users. And by vowing to never answer my phone again, I might be a terrible journalist, but I’m at least doing my part as a member of the robocall resistance. That’s what I learned today when I stopped by the Federal Trade Commission’s Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo.  I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story. The factoids above come from YouMail.com, which seems to have the best data on spam phone calls, a scourge so bad that it has basically made all our telephones useless for voice calling.

YouMail offers depressing data points like this: Robocalls broke a national record in March with 3.15 billion calls placed, a 15% increase from February (yea, a record!). This amounts to roughly 101.8 robocalls each day. The increase in robocalls per day was primarily driven by a big jump in telemarketing calls (up 19%) and scam calls (up 13%).

But you probably knew that.

You might not know that iPhone users received 29% more robocalls than Android users in March. AT&T and T-Mobile customers received around 15 robocalls per month, versus 12 for Sprint and Verizon users.

YouMail CEO Alex Quilici blames this on Apple, which has been slow to approve apps designed to help consumers stop spam calls.

Why are spam calls so hard to stop? The excuse used to be that carriers weren’t allowed to block the calls, as they had an obligation to connect calls no matter their content (if that sounds a bit like network neutrality, well, those were the good old days).  That requirement has been eased, so now some carriers (good on you, T-Mobile) will warn consumers directly that they might have an incoming scam call.  Outright call blocking is happening too, but much too slowly – obviously.

Quilici is sympathetic to the challenge.  Plenty of robocalls are “legitimate.”  They’re from fund-raisers, or debt collectors.  Carriers can’t block all of those, and as with email, false positives are a real problem.

I’d like to see carriers improve their spam techniques much faster, however. The criminals sure are innovating quickly.  I recently reported on the problem of neighbor spoofing, which employs numbers that make calls appear to be from nearby — making consumers more likely to answer.

The Expo was put on by the FTC to give anti-robocall companies a chance to show off their wares. These government-backed gatherings designed to nudge along free market solutions are productive.  They are no substitute for law enforcement action, however. So here’s hoping the FTC continues its record of pursuing spammers and making them pay.

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About Bob Sullivan 1286 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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