“It is clearly getting worse over time, a few years ago people weren’t complaining but now there’s a lot of complaints,” Alex Quilici tells me. He’s the CEO of YouMail and his company has just released a survey that says about 980 million robocalls were made in the U.S. during the month of November.
“You know, seeing nearly a billion robocalls was an astonishingly large number for us,” Quilici told me. “We’ve been around for awhile and we answer a lot of phone calls. So we had a good sense there were a lot of robocalls but no idea there was this much. If you talk to the government, they’ll tell you there’s a hundred, two hundred thousand complaints every month, but that seems to be just the tip of the ice berg.”
He says YouMail is like an automated personal receptionist that “helps consumers and small businesses manage their calls.” The service includes technology called Smart Blocking that can detects robocalls. Quilici says the survey numbers were gleaned by tracking the increasing number of automated calls received by his clients and then using a formula to determine a number for the entire country. He seemed confident their estimate of tens of millions of calls in one month alone is accurate. But let’s face it, even if the numbers are off, many people are still sick of the calls and telling us they are receiving more and more of them.
In the survey, the Atlanta area scored number one for the highest number of robocalls in November. Savannah was listed as in the top 25 in the country, with most people in this area receiving at least five automated calls last month. “There’s both legal and illegal calls, there are a lot of scam calls,” said Quilici. “But we also see a lot of legal but annoying calls it might be okay to get one reminder that you owe a debt but ten in a month, that’s a lot.”
Quilici says you can try things like blocking calls which may work if just a few numbers are consistently annoying. But with the increasing number of random robocalls, he says the service offered by his company essentially technology to pick up on what he calls a “number behaving badly.” YouMail basically tricks the automated call into thinking your number is no longer valid and eventually your number is dropped from the list.
We checked in with our Cyber Security Expert Frank Katz, who is a professor at Armstrong State University. He told us with all his technical knowledge he hadn’t been able to block recent robocalls from his own cell phone. Katz said he had found three fee apps that offered a blocking feature for those inclined to deal with this problem head on.
“I would get one of these apps, they’re free and it certainly sounds like they would work,” Katz told me.
He said the apps work by detecting “spam numbers and blocking them”.
He found three he thought would be useful for consumers to know about – True Caller, Privacy Star (he says it would work on an Adroid or an Apple phone) and White Pages Current Caller ID.
To find out how it worked, Katz downloaded True Caller while I was talking to him. It took less than two minutes. Then the app began a test of numbers. “If it’s in their list of known Spam callers, it’s going to block it,” he told me.
He seemed satisfied the app would work and said he would keep it on his phone.
Meanwhile, Quilici told us solving this problem for consumers is “going to be a combination of things such as services like ours plus the government putting a dent in this.”
YouMail says robocalls are a huge drain on American productivity and “continually leads to fraud and crimes committed against unsuspecting citizens.”