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Unidentified robocall told millions to 'stay home' ahead of Election Day: report

An unidentified robocall told millions of Americans to "stay home" ahead of Election Day, The Washington Post reports. 

The Post reported Tuesday that over the past several weeks, about 10 million robocalls from fake phone numbers were made telling people to “stay safe and stay home.” The calls featured a female voice saying the message is a “test call” before telling people to stay inside. 

Alex Quilici, chief executive officer of spam-blocking company YouMail, told the newspaper that the calls did not directly mention the 2020 elections but still aim to sow confusion and show vulnerabilities in the phone system that could be exploited.

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“If you wanted to cause havoc in America for the elections, one way to do it is clearly robocalling,” Quilici said. “This whole thing is exposing [that] it can be very difficult to react quickly to a large calling volume campaign.”

An investigation by YouMail found that the calls may be of foreign origin and have reached 280 of the 317 area codes in the country. They began in the summer and became more aggressive in October. 

Foreign intimidation in this year's elections has been a contentious issue. Concerns grew greater after Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 DNI Ratcliffe: China 'greatest threat' to freedom since World War II MORE said in October that Russia and Iran were trying to sway public opinion ahead of Tuesday's vote. Both countries have denied the accusations against them. 

Specifically, Ratcliffe said that Iran was behind emails being spoofed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE. Mistakes made by the Iranian hackers later tied them to the threatening emails. 

Voters in Florida and Alaska had received threatening emails from domains associated with the far-right Proud Boys group demanding they vote for Trump or “we will come after you.” The Proud Boys denied sending the emails. 

Reports of using robocalls and other technology to intimidate voters have been a dominant topic as the elections finally comes to a close. 

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) said on Twitter on Tuesday that she is getting reports of robocalls in Flint telling residents to vote on Wednesday due to the long lines. 

“Obviously this is FALSE and an effort to suppress the vote," Nessel tweeted. "No long lines and today is the last day to vote. Don’t believe the lies! Have your voice heard!”

Nessel warned on Monday that text messages were being sent out to trick voters in Dearborn into thinking that "there are ballot sensor issues."

“Do not fall for it, it's a trick!” she said.

Earlier last month, conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burman were charged in Michigan with a robocall scheme allegedly attempting to suppress minority voters.

Toward the end of October, Burman and Wohl were also indicted in Ohio, accused of using robocalls to try to intimidate people out of voting by mail. The messages warned voters that if they voted by mail, their information could be used to pursue old warrants, collect outstanding debts or track people for mandatory vaccines.