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Robocallers remain relentless: Americans are on pace to get a billion robocalls a week this year

Carriers cracking down on robocalls
Telecom carriers cracking down on robocalls 01:49

Americans have lost nearly $30 billion to robocall scams over the past year, CBS L.A. reports, citing a new study by spam-blocking app Truecaller.

From automated dialers and recorded messages to spoofing and scammers, the calls are coming in at a remarkable rate. Recent reports indicate U.S. consumers are on pace to receive more than 52 billion robocalls this year.

According to the makers of YouMail, a visual voicemail and call blocking app that helps protect people's phone numbers, Americans received roughly 4 billion robocalls in May — putting the number back at pre-pandemic levels.

CNET editor at large Ian Sherr told CBS L.A., "As long as there's money, there's going to be scammers trying to get something."

He said part of the problem is that as hard as people try to stop them, those on the other end of the line are trying even harder.

"What has happened is that the technology behind it has gotten even more sophisticated to the point now where I get a lot of robocalls from local numbers," he said. "Copycats of a number I would expect to come from my area or even sometimes of actual people -- so that's part of what has made robocalls a really different experience these days."

But where do all of the numbers come from?

"It has a computer program that's behind it that has a list of all of these phone numbers that they believe are ones that have real human beings behind it," Sherr said. "And they gather them all together and they sell them to these scammers, and they just send out tons of phone calls, hoping maybe one of you will press yes and start talking to them."

And once people answer, those responsible for the calls know they've got a working number.

So what can people do to slow down the number of calls?

"The best thing you can do these days, unfortunately, is not to pick up the phone if you don't know who's calling you," Sherr said. "Obviously, they'll leave a message if they care, but that is one way that you can really, truly protect yourself.

"Another thing you can do is that there are apps out there," he continued. "And those are also really popular in terms of identifying spam callers. And the way they do it is that you and I actually tell them when we get a spam call and then they put it in their list."

YouMail CEO Alex Quilici told CBS L.A., "The short answer is you need to get a call protection app on your mobile phone in the same way you have antivirus on your computer," he said. "It's designed to not let your phone ring when these bad guys call, or if they manage to get through and they leave a voicemail, we can tag the voicemail and say, 'Hey, this is a problem. This is a scam.'"

But there is some good news for consumers.

As of June 30, the Federal Communications Commission is requiring all carriers to implement new STIR/SHAKEN technology designed to curb the flood of robocalls. It works by ensuring that calls traveling through the networks have their caller ID validated before it gets to an individuals' phone.

Only time will tell how well it does the job.

In the meantime, robocalls are "annoying -- my phone rings off the hook," consumer Tamara Ehrlich observed, telling CBS L.A., "If I answer a couple, then I get flooded. It shouldn't be my problem to fix; they're the ones that are breaking the law."

"It should be on somebody else to police, not me," she said. "And I'd like to see cell phone companies take a bigger role in making sure their customers, who are paying for their service, aren't inundated with spam and fraud and robocalls."

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