In 2021, adults received 79 billion robocalls in the U.S. That averages out to roughly 306 calls for each adult last year.
With robocalls on the rise, U.S. consumers say they want more tools to help reduce unwanted communication, whether from scammers, political campaigns or otherwise. According to a new survey from global communications and data supplier Transaction Network Services (TNS), the majority of people don't even want to receive automated calls or texts from legitimate organizations.
Robocalling trends and the pandemic
The pandemic caused many adults in the U.S. to become more dependent on their phones. In one survey, 51% of people reported an increase in texting during the pandemic, and in another survey, nearly a third of people admitted to being addicted to their screens. At the same time, political campaigns and fundraising groups have come to rely on robocalling and texting to connect with consumers.
But along with that comes scam calls from people who impersonate legitimate organizations. According to T-Mobile, robocall scam attempts increased by 116% last year, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that illegal and spoofed robocalls — calls that use fake ID info to replicate a local number or a familiar organization — are the top complaints they receive from consumers.
Here's what consumers say they're experiencing:
- 45% of respondents said they receive more than five robocalls a day
- 56% believe they've received at least one political robotext with misinformation in the prior 12 months
- 48% received a robocall or robotext during a holiday meal in the last year
At the same time, consumers aren't utilizing some of the tools and precautions that could help reduce these calls. According to the TNS survey, 43% of the respondents in the TNS survey say they answer calls from unknown numbers, for fear it might be an important call. Only 27% use the security settings available on their phones, and just 12% use the call-blocking filter or app provided by their phone carrier.
Can you avoid being scammed by robocallers?
Many consumers would like to see more protections against scam callers. The majority (83%) told TNS that they believe robocallers who scam people out of information or money should get jail time, and 82% say they want their carrier to display more information about callers in order to help them properly screen calls.
While adopting the available technologies can help, there isn't a foolproof way to prevent all scam calls. In the meantime, here are some steps each consumer can take to reduce unwanted calls and fend off scammers:
- Use the National Do Not Call Registry. Register your phone number and email address to prevent telemarketing communications.
- Contact your service provider. Ask your cell carrier for information on their call blocking and caller ID tools.
- Update device settings. Check to see what iOS or Android settings you can change to help block unwanted calls.
- Don't always trust caller ID. Robocallers can use false numbers to appear local, to mimic a number similar to yours or even display the name and number of a well-known company or government agency. If you think the communication might be legitimate, let the call go and then reach out to the agency through your online account or through a verified phone number.
- When in doubt, hang up. If you're asked to respond to a recorded prompt, to enter a number, or to provide any information at all, don't respond — even a simple "yes" could help scammers identify you as a target. Just hang up the phone or delete the text.
Methodology: TNS commissioned KANTAR to undertake an Internet Omnibus Survey which included 1,049 adults and was conducted online between Dec. 2-6, 2021.