October 15, 2018
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Robocalls hit nationwide high in September, but Mainers got fewer than most

John Raoux | AP
John Raoux | AP
A call log is displayed via an AT&T app that helps locate and block fraudulent calls on a cellphone in Orlando, Florida, Aug. 1, 2017.

For Mainers anxious about answering their phones around dinner time, here’s good news: while robocalls hit a record high nationally in September, Pine Tree State residents received fewer than consumers in most states, a new study found.

The nation’s robocalling problem, in which computers rapidly call huge amounts of numbers, grew to 4.4 billion calls in September, according to the YouMail Robocall Index. That’s the highest monthly call volume since YouMail, a free robocall blocking program for mobile phones, started tracking calls in 2015.

No Maine cities or towns made the top 50 U.S. robocall targets. The state ranked 43rd in the volume of robocalls at 9.8 million in September. That’s far fewer than the 501.4 million in top-ranked Texas and the 489.8 million in second-place California.

Maine’s 9.8 million monthly number translates into 326,700 calls per day, 13,600 per hour and 3.8 calls per second. The average Mainer received 7.7 robocalls in September, up one call per month since August.

And the numbers have been growing steadily since April, when there were 5.93 million robocalls to the state, and August, when there were 7.47 million.

The calls do not include political robocalls, whose season is fast closing in. Instead, YouMail’s numbers include telemarketing, which accounts for 18.4 percent of the robocalls in Maine, scams (40.16 percent), payment reminders (27.42 percent) and other alerts and reminders (13.95 percent).

The top robocallers to the state are phone and cable companies. Spectrum Cable Co. tops the list, followed by MCI Metro ATS. Aerialink Wireless, which occupies three of the top 10 positions in call volume, is an interest rate scam, according to YouMail.

Scams and telemarketing calls together now account for roughly 61 percent of all robocalls nationally. Health insurance scams continue to be the top scam across the country, with more than 400 million robocalls. A single health insurance scammer produced more than 250 million calls using roughly 264 different numbers from the 201 area code based in Newark, New Jersey.

YouMail said its program blocks robocalls on mobile phones by keeping the phone from ringing and then playing an out-of-service message that aims to fool the caller into thinking they dialed an invalid number.

Other companies offering robocall blocking apps include SecureLogix, Nomorobo, Should I Answer? and Hiya.

Youmail compiles the robocall volume index monthly.

“Our huge national robocalling problem is getting bigger, despite the efforts of regulators and carriers,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said in a prepared statement. “To minimize the damage from this epidemic, we need everyone to continue not answering unknown numbers, use call blocking apps like ours, and make sure they do their homework before calling numbers back.”

Another option is to register phone numbers with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry.

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