For businesses, robocalls serve a variety of purposes. They can initiate contact with cold leads, provide appointment or payment reminders, or provide alerts about customers’ accounts. Unfortunately, the majority of robocalls in the U.S. are scams. In 2020 alone, an estimated 20.6 billion robocalls were scams made with the intent to defraud unsuspecting consumers.
While the number of robocalls received in 2020 decreased from the year prior, they continue to be a major issue for consumers and businesses alike. Below, we take a look at robocall trends in 2020 and how these trends are affecting businesses across all industries. Additionally, we’ll analyze what call centers and small business owners can do about it.
Changes in Robocall Trends in 2020
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. After a few short weeks, businesses across the country, including call centers, were forced to close their offices. This led to a dramatic decrease in the number of robocalls Americans received.
According to YouMail Robocall Index, April and May of 2020 saw less than 3 billion robocalls per month, while more than 4.1 billion robocalls were placed in March 2020 and in February of the same year, Americans received over 4.8 billion. In June 2020, the FTC reported that the numbers robocall complaints it received in April and May were lower than they’d been since August 2011.
Despite the downturn early in the pandemic, robocalls persisted in 2020. Starting in June, numbers increased above 3 billion, and in October, U.S. residents reported over 4 billion robocalls. While their numbers decreased when compared to 2019, these robocalls continue to be a serious issue for many Americans. This includes legitimate call centers and business owners across the U.S.
Scams Are the Most Common Robocalls
While robocalls often serve a valuable purpose, 2020 saw more scam calls than any other type of robocall. In fact, 46% of all reported robocalls in 2020 were scams. At 20.6 billion, scam calls topped reports in 2020 with more than double that of telemarketing or financial reminder calls. Telemarketing call reports came in at 5.9 billion across the U.S., making up 13% of robocall reports.
- Scams: 20.6 billion (42%)
- Alerts and Reminders: 11.6 billion (26%)
- Financial Reminders: 7.5 billion (16%)
- Telemarketing: 5.9 billion (13%)
Robocall Trends By State
Throughout the U.S., robocall reports vary dramatically depending on the state. For example, residents of Washington, D.C. received an average of 423 robocalls in 2020. While those in Alaska reported an average of just 39 per person. In states such as Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Nevada, and Tennessee, robocalls were reported at a rate of more than five per person per week. In contrast, most other states range between two and four robocalls per person per week.
October Continues to Be the Busiest Month for Robocallers
Since 2017, October is statistically the month that sees the highest robocall rates. In 2020, that trend remained. October reports increased 12% from September, equating to an average of 137.2 million calls each day. 2.07 billion of these reported calls were scams, making up a whopping 50% of October’s robocalls.
The majority of these calls, an estimated 356 million, were warranty scams to solicit fraudulent payments. Rounding out the top two types of scams in October were healthcare scams and government imposter scams. Both of which attempt to steal identities or solicit fraudulent payments from U.S. residents.
What’s the Law Regarding Robocalls and How Are These Laws Enforced?
2019 and 2020 saw the introduction of several pieces of legislation intended to combat spam calls. These acts help government agencies levy strict fines and penalties on businesses that violate robocall laws. Doing so has contributed to a downtick in spam calls across the country.
These acts include the:
- Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act of 2020
- Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act of 2020
- Spectrum IT Modernization Act of 2020
Reinforced Robocall Legislation
Additionally, the Data Analytics Robocall Technology (DART) Act, and the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrent (TRACED) Act, both of which were passed in 2019, have helped to protect consumers against scams and other illegal robocalls.
Under the DART Act, the FCC has outlawed more types of spam robocalls. This redefines what constitutes as a “legal robocall”, mainly allowing robocalls to continue from:
- Emergency services
- Government agencies
- Educational institutions
- Weather agencies
- Debt collection
- Charity outreach
- Political campaigning
- Informational alerts
Additionally, the TRACED Act’s focus is to eliminate spoofing from robocalls. Fines for violating these acts range from $1,500 to $10,000 per illegal call.
While illegal robocalls continue to slip through the cracks, these pieces of legislation have helped to decrease robocalls in nearly every state.
How Robocalls Affect Businesses Across the U.S.
Although 2020 saw an overall decrease in robocalls, the threat to consumers and businesses throughout the U.S. remains very real. In addition to putting vulnerable Americans at risk of fraud or identity theft, robocalls destroy consumer confidence and make it difficult for businesses to effectively connect with their customers.
Thanks to spam callers’ persistence, many consumers are opting to block unknown incoming calls. This leads to a dramatic decline in answer rates for many legitimate businesses. Consumers aware of robocall trends are more likely to be leery of unknown calls.
Furthermore, calls that do connect to the consumer often produce poor results. The average consumer is wary of scams and has little trust for companies that conduct business over the phone. In fact, according to a 2019 survey conducted by Clutch, 79% of people surveyed say they’re uncomfortable providing any information over the phone and only 24% prefer to conduct business over the phone.
Keeping Up Effective Business Communication and Maintaining Your Reputation
Although legislation to control robocalls is coming into place, they continue to pose a considerable threat to legitimate businesses. That’s why it’s so important that companies take steps to monitor their reputation. In addition, companies should have contingencies to mitigate common consumer concerns, such as blocked numbers, flags, and call spoofing attempts. There are several practices U.S. businesses can adopt to protect their reputation and avoid receivin erroneous flags from consumers and carriers. This includes:
- Verify caller-ID and remain transparent about call tactics by providing the customer with text message alerts prior to placing a phone call
- Avoid using robocalls altogether and ensure an actual person initiates contact with customers
- Train employees to identify themselves immediately when calling a customer and convey friendliness in all interactions
- Follow up on phone conversations via email or physical mail whenever possible
Despite the persistence of robocall scams and other spam calls, outbound calls continue to be a viable means of business communication for many companies. While businesses need to adapt to changing consumer preferences, adopting practices to avoid inaccurate flagging or fines can ensure that companies can continue to connect with customers successfully. 2020’s robocall trends have shown that this problem is likely to plague consumers even after enhanced legislation.