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Robocalls in the 920 and how to stop them

Posted at 12:00 AM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 00:22:33-05

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. — If your phone is ringing and ringing throughout the day, you're not alone.

That's true even if you don't know the caller on the other end.

The company Youmail tracks robocalls, and their numbers show that the 920 area code received 8.6 million robocalls in the month of January. That's 278,000 calls per day, 11,000 calls per hour, and three calls per second. The average person got seven robocalls that month.

"It is a very big problem," Wisconsin Division of Trade and Consumer Protection Administrator Lara Sutherlin said. "We're not unique in that."

Sutherlin said that telemarketing calls are by far the top consumer complaints to her agency. Robocalls are a big part of that, but there's a difference between a legal telemarketing call and a robocall, which is illegal.

"(The'yre) Typically done by criminals or scammers, people who want your personal information, financial information, and are not in any way trying to comply with the state's laws," Sutherlin said.

The state's do not call registry can stop calls from legitimate telemarketers but not from criminal robocallers.

"The style of these robocalls is to blanket an area code and put their lines in the water and see if they can get anybody to grab on," Sutherlin said.

Robocallers may be getting better by using what's called 'neighbor spoofing,' where a call will come in through the 920 area code. The good news is that enforcement is getting better too.

Youmail CEO Alex Quilici said that the federal government is going after scammers. A Florida man got fined $120 million for allegedly making almost 100 million robocalls. The government also broke up a major scam where callers from India were posing as the IRS.

However, Quilici said that for some robocall companies, a fine is the cost of business.

There are still some ways to limit the problem on your own. First, don't pick up the phone when an unknown number calls, even if its from your area code. Second, resist the urge to call the number back. Do some research and see if that caller is who they say they are. Finally, you can lessen the problem with a robocall blocking app like Youmail.

Over time, Quilici said those annoying phone calls are likely to slow down. For the near future though, those annoying sounds might be sticking around.