Technology 3 min read

How Robocalls Became an American Epidemic

Robocalls are a common and pervasive annoyance, and it's only going to get worse. ¦ Alexander Kirch /

Robocalls are a common and pervasive annoyance, and it's only going to get worse. ¦ Alexander Kirch /

How many robocalls per week would you say you get on average?

Now, multiply that by the number of immediate family members you have. Now, include your extended family and close friends. You can see how these figures begin to balloon to epic and unfortunate proportions.

Robocalls, while once obvious and infrequent, have now become more sophisticated and numerous.

Though many wireless plans might have unlimited minutes these days, humans don’t have that option. As such, the burden comes to lawmakers and federal regulations to help ensure that robocalls don’t enable scams or predatory companies from harming or exploiting citizens.

A Semi In-Depth Look at How Robocalls can Affect You

I’m personally a big fan of mostly everything John Oliver does. But the March 10th, 2019 episode of his show Last Week Tonight shed some light on the robocall epidemic.

In the episode, Oliver showcases a number of robotic phone calls, some of which I myself have received. He touts a semi-insane factoid: robocalls increased by 57% in 2018. This amounts to around 47.8 billion robocalls made last year.

But these spam call effects aren’t just are annoying; they can be harmful, too.

Nefarious actors can record your voice saying various things. Then, they can use these recordings to compromise your data or even steal your identity. Oliver even includes a clip of a real person impersonating someone else in order to extract his mother’s social security number from her.

This scam involves spoofing — making a phone number appear as another number, i.e. the IRS, a local phone number, or even your own. And spoofing, robocalls, and voice recording are just some of the tools available.

Curiously, Oliver also has a clip of a robocall interrupting Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, during a live presentation. As with the AT&T CEO, Randall Stephenson, this presentation also involved robocalls.

A Cavalier Attitude With Small Steps Toward Change

You can watch Stephenson laugh off the incident in the video above. But this shouldn’t be treated as some kind of light-hearted subject. In fact, his nonchalance might signal to some that maybe he doesn’t deem worth dealing with.

Since lawmakers and companies can’t come to an agreement, wireless providers stepped in.

T-Mobile, Verizon, and even AT&T themselves offered spam filters for their calls. Of course, as in the video above, that filter might not make much of a difference.

Comcast and AT&T also paired together, announcing an effort to authenticate calls made between networks. Calling it the “nation’s first” deal, the initiative essentially just alerts you when a phone call might be a spam call.

I have a similar function on my Google Pixel 3 using Google Fi for wireless service.

However, this Comcast and AT&T system does not actually identify spam calls. In contrast, it identifies legitimate calls instead. That means that robocalls will still get through, but just as “unverified” calls.

Perhaps we will see some active movement to combat the spam call trend soon.

Read More: How to Block Robocalls With Three Simple Steps

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

Comments (2)
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  1. Profile Image
    Tony Quart March 26 at 5:56 am GMT

    Well, these robocalls are really becoming one of our biggest enemy since few years ago. I personally get 5 10 robocalls each and every week. Most of the robocalls are coming from scammers, unfortunately. If those calls were coming from legit businesses, I think I will sue the callers, like what I have read at wins massive 229500 robocall lawsuit against time warner cable/.

  2. Profile Image
    John Usrey March 26 at 1:42 am GMT

    I wouldn’t be surprised when the world will be unrecognizable by 2030.

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