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What it’s like to live in the robocall capital of America




The constant chorus of phone calls (“your account has been compromised” and “your car warranty has expired”) became a backdrop to your life. It’s a “hit a mole,” game, he said. “I have 54 numbers blocked on my phone … and it’s programmed to mute calls that aren’t in my contacts or that I haven’t called.” Still, calls keep coming.

Walsh lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which receives the most calls per person in the United States, according to data from YouMail, a call prevention service that tracks call traffic nationwide. YouMail found an average of 39 phone calls per resident in February. That’s two and a half times the national average, which is between 14 and 15 monthly calls per person, according to YouMail. Baton Rouge is consistently ranked in the top five cities in the United States by this metric.

“It’s definitely an issue with a broad awareness,” Walsh said.

Zach Rau, who also lives in Baton Rouge and works in public finance, agrees. “When one arrives, I just reject the call and dedicate myself to the day,” he said. “The absolute worst comes out with a fog horn to say you’ve won a cruise.”

Robocalls have been called “flagell“and one”national nightmare“More than 4.6 billion automatic calls were made in February alone, 15% more than in January and are now return to pre-pandemic levels, according to YouMail. (Many international call centers where illegal calls originate) close last spring because of the Covid-19.)
But as much as it may seem like the robocall problem for all households, the YouMail data reveals that they are worse everywhere the south. The state that received the most in February was Texas (513 million). Tennessee and Alabama received the most per person, with 27 and 26 phone calls each month, respectively. The most objective city? Atlanta (171 million); its 404 area code was the most popular area code for automatic calls.

While it’s not known why Baton Rouge specifically and some southern states receive more calls than others, telecommunications experts believe there are several contributing factors, including a touch of southern hospitality that can lead people to pick up the phone more often.

“Scammers measure metrics of success just like any good business,” said Kush Parikh, president of Hiya, a service that provides profile information to some telecom companies to help consumers identify incoming calls and block those that don’t. they wish. “The south tends to be more affected because scammers are more successful there. In general, it is rural, neighborhood and hosts more vulnerable populations.”

He said people in the south are more likely to answer a call from an unknown number, especially if it looks like a local number, which is called “neighbor counterfeiting,” a common scam tactic. “Higher response rates tend to result in higher success rates for scammers,” Parikh said.

PhoneBurner call marketing tool data indicates four of the top five states with the highest response rates are in the south. (The other is California.)

Scammers are also more likely to target vulnerable populations. “Seniors and immigrants are often targets of scammers because they often have unique and unfamiliar situations regarding the areas that scammers exploit, including the medical, financial, and legal situation,” Parikh said. “Non-native English speakers are also more susceptible to these scams, as language can cause more confusion. This makes it simpler for scammers to confuse them and convince them of a scam.”

States such as Texas and Florida are home to some of the largest populations in seniors i immigrants in the United States.

Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, said the scammers will also target areas with financial problems, because people will be more receptive to dubious calls they promise to save. “Southern cities with large pockets of poverty and unemployment will receive many more calls than those who do not answer the phone and / or are doing well,” he said. “These areas are also often affected by more Medicaid, Medicare, labor scams or telemarketing calls. Scammers will try to grab the little money people have; they’re not usually targeted at rich areas.”

According to the US News & World Report, citing data from the 2018 U.S. Census, most of the top ten states with the highest poverty rates are in the south. According to the report, Louisiana had the third highest level of poverty in the country.

One could also play a level of technological savings on people living in certain cities; more educated people about automatic calling may have call barring technologies. But even those who are reasonably tech savvy can still find themselves receiving and answering automatic calls.

“I don’t answer calls from unrecognized numbers and my iPhone will now say‘ probably a scam ’, which is useful,” said Jared Brown, a retail manager living in Baton Rouge. “But I’ve also been applying for jobs out of state, so sometimes I’m more hesitant not to respond in case I miss an opportunity.”

The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission continue to deploy significant efforts to educate people on how not to fall into illegal robocalling scams. Some mobile operators offer built-in or free apps that block calls from known fraudsters by displaying warning banners for suspicious calls. There is also an industry-wide effort called STIR / SHAKEN helping to verify that a call actually comes from the number that appears in the caller ID and is not falsified, a form of automatic call that allows the author to modify the number that appears to be calling.
Varian Johnson, a author of children’s books who lives in Austin, Texas, the state with the most phone calls, will sometimes give in to an unknown number if he comes from the South Carolina area code where his parents live, or pretending he comes, especially during the pandemic.

“With everything going on with Covid, I’m always a little worried that something horrible has happened … so I take a risk and see his area code,” Johnson said. Although he said he received fewer calls last spring and summer due to calls from the call center, since then “they have returned with a real revenge this year.”

Although important work has already been done to combat unwanted calls, it remains an element of life in the country’s capital.

“After a while we fell asleep,” Rau said. “It just happens to be a part of everyday life, so we may not realize how much it really has.”