DENVER (KDVR/NEXSTAR) — Have you ever had one of those annoying calls show up on your cellphone with an unknown number or no caller ID? You are not alone.
According to YouMail’s Robocall Index, the volume of calls nationwide jumped 5.7% in January over the previous month’s numbers. YouMail, a free voicemail and spam-blocking app, extrapolates its data from “robocall traffic attempting to get through to YouMail’s millions of active users.”
The largest metropolises such as Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Houston and New York received the most calls in January, according to YouMail estimates, which would make sense considering the sheer number of mobile phones owned by residents. Adjusted for per capita numbers, however, a new set of cities appear:
- Baton Rouge, LA (45.0 per capita)
- Memphis, TN (39.5)
- Washington D.C. (32.8)
- Little Rock, AR (32.4)
- Macon, GA (31.6)
- Birmingham, AL (31)
- Albany, GA (30.7
- Lafayette, LA (30.4)
- San Antonio, TX (30)
- Charleston, SC (28.5)
From fake debt collectors to phony vacation gifts, Baton Rouge residents have been targeted by scammers at an extraordinary rate for some time now.
“I have 54 blocked numbers in my phone … and it’s programmed to silence calls that aren’t in my contacts or that I have not called,” former marketing consultant and Baton Rouge resident Melinda Walsh told CNN in 2021, yet the calls kept coming.
A YouMail spokesperson told Nexstar that the Louisiana city has been at or near the top of the list when it comes to estimated robocalls per capita since they started compiling data roughly five years ago.
The spokesperson pointed to two possible explanations for the flood of calls to Baton Rouge residents: call center data shows people in the South tend to answer their phones more, leading to more robocalls, and crooks like to prey on vulnerable residents in areas with higher levels of economic hardship, like Baton Rouge, where the poverty rate is nearly 25%.
“Scammers are measuring success metrics just like any good business,” Kush Parikh, president of Hiya, a Seattle-based company that helps users identify incoming calls, told CNN. “Higher answer rates typically result in higher success for scammers.”
What states are seeing the most robocalls?
As for the total amount of estimated calls by state, these are the top 10 so far in 2023:
- Texas (533,885,600)
- California (396,258,400)
- Florida (359,991,400)
- Georgia (282,090,800)
- New York (234,991,400)
- Illinois (182,366,000)
- North Carolina (176,395,700)
- Pennsylvania (169,838,000)
- Ohio (163,593,600)
- Tenessee (145,072,600)
In January alone, all states in the top 10 saw an increase over December’s numbers, but some states were especially inundated. Tennessee saw an eight percent increase while Pennsylvania’s total jumped by 10%, according to YouMail estimates.
What is the most common scam?
You may be familiar with the car warranty scam call, but another robocall – a fake Camp Lejeune compensation campaign – was the most common in January, marking its fourth straight month in the top spot, according to YouMail.
In August 2022, President Biden signed a law allowing people exposed to toxic water at the base to file lawsuits.
According to YouMail, the calls can vary in their approach with the voice on the other end of the line claiming to be from various organizations such as the “Plaintiff Advocate” or “Class Action Claims,” but all purport to offer an avenue to medical compensation.
How to stop robocalls
The Federal Communications Commission said that unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls – are the top consumer complaint.
Here are some tips to help with unwanted robocalls from the FCC:
- Register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
- If you answer the phone and the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
It is also important to remember that scammers can use a robotext as well. The FCC said that rules ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer unless you previously gave consent to receive the message, or the message is sent for emergency purposes.