A recent report has revealed that Arizona ranks No. 5 in the country for the most Federal Communications Commission complaints against robocalls, despite lawmakers' best efforts to ensure the calls will stop.
Also known as “spoofing” or “sales” calls, these calls occur when companies try to sell their products and services to strangers over the phone. They can also occur when a person receives a call from their own phone number or a mysterious blocked number.
Robocalls made up over 50% of all FCC consumer complaints made between 2015-2018, according to a study done by Security.org, followed by billing and availability concerns.
During this time period unwanted call complaints increased by 35%, making the total amount of robocall criticism higher than every other type of complaint combined.
Jessica Contreras, a sophomore majoring in health sciences, feels like she answers these types of calls all the time.
“I feel like I get at least five a day,” Contreras said. “When you’re applying to jobs as a student, you answer thinking that it’s a potential employer, and it gets your hopes up, but it ends up being just a scam. I still answer and it takes time away from my day. It’s just a bother.”
Katina Michael, an ASU professor who specializes in cybersecurity and privacy, has warned phone users to stop using landlines and to wait for the person on the other end to say “hello” first when answering a call.
“We're seeing an increase in the number of unwanted calls because criminal activity around phone fraud can happen from anywhere in the world," said Michael. "And (it) can happen if you simply get access to a computer that can actually dial for a limited cost, if not for free."
The report, which analyzed complaint trends using the FCC's Consumer Complaint Open Data, found that “it seems more important than ever that Americans utilize the FFC's informal complaint system to shed light on the people or organizations responsible.”
The study showed that Arizona ranks No. 5 in the country for most complaints with 281.1 complaints per 100,000 residents in 2018.
“Arizona is a melting pot of numbers from all over America. We have this multiplicity of numbers people are carrying from different states,” Michael said. “It means that we have a higher likelihood of being tapped into, if that makes sense, as these auto-robo systems are going through their call lists.”
Cameron Beickel, a senior studying marketing, also has his share of experiences with robocalls.
“I get calls probably twice a day saying, ‘The IRS is coming after you,’ or, ‘Pay your taxes now,’” Beickel said. “It’s obviously preying on people who don’t understand technology, more so like the older generation who are using their phones and maybe don’t understand that it (could be) a robocall.”
The report follows recent legislation proposed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to penalize criminals making illegal robocalls.
An article posted on Sinema’s website stated that Arizonans received over 550 million unwanted calls within the first six months of 2019.
In July, Sinema announced her collaboration with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act which is meant to specifically increase penalties for those who exploit senior citizens.
“Robocalls are more than just a nuisance, and we must go after the criminals who use robocalls to harass seniors,” Sinema said at a Senate Aging Committee hearing in July. “That is why I am proud to join Chairman Collins in introducing new legislation to update existing penalties for illegal spoofing.”
Both Arizona Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Sinema voted in support of the TRACED Act in May, another piece of legislation with the intention of holding those who conduct robocalls accountable.