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Robocalls have become such an incessant annoyance that many Americans are wary of picking up the phone. In November alone, five billion robocalls were placed, and of those, 164.3 million were in Illinois, according to YouMail’s most recent robocall index.

Wisconsin saw more than 45 million robocallers in November alone, which amounts to more than 8 such calls for every human being in the state. Considering that November contained 2,592,000 seconds, that averages to more than 17 robocalls every second.

Nationwide, robocalls are made at a rate of 167.3 million per day, 7 million per hour and 1,900 per second. The average U.S. resident received 15.3 robocalls in November.

The November tally is down a bit from October, when about 5.7 billion robocalls were detected, according to Alex Quilici, the CEO of the robocall blocking and tracking company YouMail.

“It has been declining,” Quilici said. “We think it’s a couple of things. It’s harder to get through because of blocking apps, so they have to keep making more calls to get through. And a lot of people respond to them.”

In Wisconsin, residents received 45.2 million robocalls in November. These were the top 10 robocallers in Wisconsin, and what a typical message was:

1. 800-892-4357 Gift Card Scam Telemarketing “Free wireless security system valued at $1200 in exchange for simply allowing us to put a small sign in your yard to find out how we can secure your home. ”

2. 800-892-2253 Spectrum TV Provider Spam “Hello this is spectrum calling as a follow up to your recent customer service experience. “

3. 800-318-2596 Health Insurance Spam Health Insurance Spam “Hello this is Ann calling from Health with an important message from the Health Insurance Market Place.”

4. 844-206-9035 Spectrum Payment Reminder “Hello this is a very important call about your Spectrum Cable account. It’s very important that you return this call.”

5. 800-955-6600 Capital One Bank/Credit Card Payment Reminder “Hi, this is Karen from Capitol One. We’ve been trying to reach you about an important personal business matter.”

6. 414-877-5471 Peerless Network Debt Collector Debt Collector “We have we have an important message from Professional Credit Service.”

7. 414-238-9106 West Telecom Services, LLC Generic Robocaller Bank/Credit Card Payment Reminder “This is Genesis FS Card Services calling you regarding an important business matter about your Indigo account.”

8. 919-205-3384 CLEC, LLC Security System Alert Social Security Scam “This call is from the Department of security information. You have received this phone call from our department to spend your social security number because we found some activity. So if you want to know about this case just press one thank you.”

9. 833-861-4044 Unknown Generic Robocaller “This is West with an important message from LJ Ross Associates. This call is from a debt collector. Please call 1-833-861-4044.”

10. 833-525-8081 Spectrum Service Payment Reminder “This is spectrum with an automated message about an important change in the status of the account belonging to [you].”

The 10 cities that received the most robocalls in November were:

  1. Atlanta: 199,110,700 robocalls, down 10 percent from October
  2. Dallas: 187,406,200 robocalls, down nine percent from October
  3. Los Angeles: 154,718,100 robocalls, down 12 percent from October
  4. Houston: 152,960,400 robocalls, down 10 percent from October
  5. New York City: 140,752,400 robocalls, down 14 percent from October
  6. Chicago: 171,866,400 robocalls, down 18 percent from October
  7. Baltimore: 103,392,600 robocalls, down 16 percent from October
  8. Phoenix: 103,086,000 robocalls, down five percent from October
  9. Newark, New Jersey: 97,532,400 robocalls, down 13 percent from October
  10. San Francisco Bay area: 91,224,800 robocalls, down 12 percent from October

Nationally, about 47 percent of robocalls were scam calls, according to the report. The rest were legitimate — 12 percent were telemarketers, 19 percent were payment reminders, and 22 percent were alerts and other reminders.

Many robocalls direct people to press “1” on their phone keypads if they want more information, or to press “9” to be taken off the calling list. Both actions are counterproductive, signaling to the caller that a real person has been reached, Quilici said.

“It’s pointless to press a number,” he said. “It just tells them it’s an active number, so you’re going to get more calls.”

The calls aren’t just annoying. The blocking and tracking firm Truecaller estimates that consumers have lost $10.5 billion to phone scams so far this year, with an average loss of $244.

Both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have passed legislation cracking down on annoying and unsolicited robocalls, but the two bills need to be reconciled before sending them to President Trump for his signature.

The bills give Federal Communications Commission regulators stronger enforcement tools. The House version requires phone carriers to implement caller identification technology, and it requires the FCC to report annually to Congress on the state of robocalls.

But Quilici said the legislation “isn’t a panacea,” and he doesn’t think tougher laws will make robocalls disappear entirely.

The increased frequency of robocalls in October proves that blocking apps are effective, Quilici said.

“On your computer, you run anti-virus software,” he said. “Now you need to run YouMail or another app on your cell phone to block the calls. Consumers have to protect themselves. You lock your door, you need to run a robocall blocking apps and services. It’s the new normal.”

Some other robocall blocking apps include:

Some strategies:

  • Be leery about anyone calling on the phone about any emergency. Get a phone number to call back, and verify the whereabouts and safety of the person the call is about.
  • Never give out Social Security, Medicare or financial account information over the phone.
  • In general, avoid answering calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t confirm any personal information. Avoid saying “yes” to any question, as calls may be recorded and the answer can be used as consent for a purchase you didn’t request.
  • Don’t press any numbers to stop calls. That will likely increase the number of robocalls you get, signaling to the scammers they’ve reached an active number.
  • Change your voicemail message so it doesn’t reveal your name or other personal information. If you want a legitimate caller to know they’ve reached you, go ahead and put your phone number on the message.
  • Don’t return calls that claim to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, your bank or a local police or sheriff’s department. If you think the message is legitimate, don’t return the number left on a voicemail. Instead, look up the legitimate phone number.
  • Register both your landline and your cell phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
  • Report robocalls and other unwanted calls with the FTC, by phone at 888-382-1222 or 877-382-4357, or online.

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