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Robocalls see spike during summer months: study

Robocalls see spike during summer months: study
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For the past several years, U.S. consumers have received more robocalls during the summer months than other parts of the year, according to a study obtained exclusively by The Hill.

The analysis by Comparitech found that more people filed complaints about robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) during the summer, particularly August, between 2014 and 2018.

In December 2017, there were fewer than 400,000 FTC complaints about robocalls; by August 2018, the number had spiked to around 750,000. That dynamic has played out for the past several years, with steady increases between December and August, according to the analysis of FTC complaints released Tuesday.

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While Comparitech did not offer an explanation for the spike, "summer scams" are a well-known phenomenon as fraudsters offer junk deals on vacation rentals, home improvements, hotel stays and more.

Robocall complaints spiked by 165 percent between 2014 and 2017, peaking at 4.5 million per year, according to the FTC. The number of complaints deflated to 3.8 million in 2018, but the FTC still says it is the No. 1 consumer complaint it receives. 

Most of the robocalls with "identifiable topics" promoted debt reduction plans, followed by medicine and prescriptions, and then imposters, according to the survey.

Roughly 37 percent of robocall complaints in 2018 were about calls that promoted debt reduction solutions. 

Comparitech broke down the states receiving the most intense deluge of robocalls, finding that California, Oregon and Washington, D.C. are among the states whose residents received the highest number of robocalls from "imposters."

"Calls from importers, in which a live caller or recording pretends to a business, family, friend, or government entity, targeted California, Washington, D.C., and Oregon more than anywhere else in the U.S.," the survey found.

Estimates about how many robocalls U.S. consumers receive each year vary, but YouMail concluded that nearly 47.8 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. last year.

The survey does not distinguish between legal robocalls, which are from legitimate businesses such as creditors and illegal robocalls, which are fraudulent calls from scammers seeking to obtain information.

Robocalls have been a topic of bipartisan dismay on Capitol Hill as lawmakers hear frustration and complaints from their constituents back home. An anti-robocall bill is making its way through the House and similar legislation was approved by the Senate earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the FTC has been partnering with local and state agencies to crack down on illegal robocall operations and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to pressure carriers into implementing call-blocking technology.