Coronavirus pandemic claims another victim: Robocalls

Industry experts say robocalls are way down — scam calls as well as nagging from your credit-card company to pay your bill. The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted millions of job losses, and scammers have not been immune.

Posted: May 22, 2020 2:12 PM

Have you been missing something amid the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders? No, not human contact. Not even toilet paper.

Robocalls.

Industry experts say robocalls are way down — scam calls as well as nagging from your credit-card company to pay your bill. The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted millions of job losses, and scammers have not been immune.

YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking service, says 2.9 billion robocalls were placed in April in the U.S., down from 4.1 billion in March and 4.8 billion in February. That’s a daily average of 97 million calls in April, down from 132 million in March and 166 million in April.

The main reason: many global call centers have closed or are operating with fewer workers, said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. While it may be odd to think of scams being run out of call centers rather than a dark, creepy basement or a garage, that’s often the case, particularly in countries such as India and the Philippines, experts said.

After a lockdown order went into effect in India in late March, “we saw the volume of calls basically half the next day,” Quilici said.

That means scammers will probably be back in force once the call centers come back online. Stepped-up enforcement from industry groups and the U.S. government could nibble around the edges of those call volumes when the scammers are back, however. In recent months, federal agencies have focused on going after the small telecom providers that were allowing calls from COVID-19 scammers, citing the urgency of the pandemic.

And free blocking tools that were already in place on many people’s phones help consumers dodge unwanted calls, so it’s not clear how many have noticed the lower numbers of scam and telemarketing calls in the past couple months.

“What we do hear from consumers is call blocking tools are effective in reducing a significant number of robocalls but some unwanted calls are going to slip through,” said Maureen Mahoney, a policy analyst with Consumer Reports.

Complaints about unwanted calls to the Federal Trade Commission have been steadily trending down since late 2018, and dropped by more than half in March from the year before, to 240,000. The Federal Communications Commission gets many fewer complaints overall but says those also fell 50% in March, to 10,000, and 60% in April, to 7,500.

None of which is to say that nuisance calls and phone scams and texts have disappeared.

“While reports of robocalls are way down overall, we’re now hearing about callers invoking the COVID-19 pandemic to pretend to be from the government, or making illegal medical or health care pitches,” an FTC blog post declared in mid-April.

And Mahoney predicts that calls will pick up again, and it won’t just be scammers back in action. With so many people out of work and behind on their bills, debt collectors will be relentlessly badgering them to pay soon enough, she said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 31715

Reported Deaths: 1984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9189533
Lake3299167
Cass15826
Allen127766
St. Joseph117034
Hendricks112367
Hamilton109992
Johnson1082104
Elkhart100827
Madison58258
Porter48721
Bartholomew48033
Clark45838
LaPorte40821
Tippecanoe3733
Jackson3611
Howard35618
Delaware35434
Hancock31927
Shelby31421
Floyd31338
Boone28235
Morgan26124
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery22717
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2151
Noble18520
Grant18520
Harrison18521
Dubois1822
Greene16723
Warrick16426
Dearborn16221
Monroe16010
Henry1597
Vigo1477
Lawrence14322
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Carroll922
Kosciusko861
Daviess8216
Steuben792
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne695
Fayette654
Marshall641
LaGrange602
Jasper561
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay430
Jefferson411
Randolph403
Pulaski390
Clay391
Whitley392
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
Owen311
DeKalb291
Perry270
Huntington262
Benton250
Knox240
Crawford230
Wells230
Tipton221
Blackford201
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke170
Posey170
Spencer161
Gibson142
Ohio130
Adams121
Warren121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0152

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 112017

Reported Deaths: 4885
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook730973324
Lake7723250
DuPage7207340
Kane5761152
Will5188258
Winnebago195351
McHenry142767
St. Clair99172
Kankakee79942
Kendall71419
Rock Island63622
Champaign5647
Madison53954
Boone39716
Sangamon33126
DeKalb3253
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21110
Ogle1922
Stephenson1902
Macon18819
Peoria1797
Clinton17716
Out of IL1641
Union1417
LaSalle14012
Whiteside13410
Iroquois1304
Coles1169
Warren1140
Unassigned1100
Jefferson10116
Knox940
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee771
Cass670
Henry670
Tazewell673
Williamson551
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin411
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas270
Jo Daviess270
Fayette202
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Mason170
Menard170
Woodford172
Shelby161
Bureau151
Mercer150
Carroll132
Hancock130
Franklin120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Piatt110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 87°
Robinson
Broken Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 87°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 83°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 84°
Casey
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Brazil
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 87°
Marshall
Few Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 87°
Summer-like Weather Continues
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events