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Robocalls Hit Record in 2019

Scam calls made up 44 percent of the 58.5 billion total

Record number of robocalls last year

PeopleImages / Getty Images

En español | About 58.5 billion robocalls — a record — bombarded U.S. phones in 2019, a 22 percent jump from the previous year, according to an industry estimate.

The data released Wednesday show Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, was ground zero last year for the annoying calls everybody loves to hate.

Washingtonians endured an average of 599 robocalls per person last year, which is 1.6 calls per person a day. This and the other estimates are for mobile phones and landlines combined.

The states hit by the heaviest barrages of robocalls per capita were Louisiana, 371 per person over the year; Alabama, 311; Nevada, 305; South Carolina, 300; Tennessee, 287; Georgia, 281; Arkansas, 256; North Carolina, 245; and Delaware, 240.

Have the urge to head to the Last Frontier? Here's a selling point: Alaska, the 49th state to join the union, was dead last for robocalls per capita, with 45 during 2019.

Only six other states had fewer than 100 robocalls per capita last year: Maine had 99; West Virginia and Wisconsin, 91; Vermont, 84; Minnesota, 78; and Massachusetts, 75.

The estimates are from YouMail, an Irvine, California, firm that offers free and premium robocall-blocking apps for mobile phones.

Other takeaways:

  • Heavily populated states bore the brunt of the raw number of robocalls. The top 10 were Texas, 6.64 billion; California, 6.01 billion; Florida, 4.44 billion; Georgia, 3.56 billion; New York, 3.49 billion; Ohio, 2.21 billion; Pennsylvania, 2.12 billion; North Carolina, 2.08 billion; Illinois, 2.05 billion; and Tennessee, 1.71 billion.
  • Six states earned the distinction of being called “fast climbers,” meaning the overall number of robocalls jumped at least 40 percent year to year. They are: West Virginia, which had a 55 percent jump; Idaho, 51 percent; Iowa, 47 percent; New Mexico, 44 percent; Wyoming, 42 percent; and Nebraska, 41 percent.
  • The single biggest source of last year's calls — 25.9 billion — was scammers, who accounted for 44 percent of all robocalls in 2019.

Alerts and reminders resulted in 13 billion calls, or 22 percent. Financial reminders led to 11.4 billion calls, or 19 percent. Telemarketing calls were estimated at 8 billion, or 14 percent.

YouMail estimates robocalls and breaks out the types of calls using a patented technology, call patterns and customer feedback.

Two years, 100 billion-plus robocalls

There were 47.8 billion robocalls during 2018, the firm says.

CEO Alex Quilici said the two-year total of more than 100 billion robocalls makes it “little wonder” that Congress last year passed the TRACED Act, a measure aimed at deterring illegal telemarketers and scammers, and the president signed it into law. 

If you find yourself longing for the good old days of 2017, here's a clue: There were only 30.5 billion robocalls then, according to a YouMail estimate. That signifies what the firm called a “stunning” 92 percent increase over two years.

Quick tips: What not to do if you get a robocall

  • Don't answer calls from unknown numbers.
  • Don't press any keys or say anything in response to a recorded message.
  • Don't follow instructions to “speak to a live operator."
  • Don't trust caller ID; scammers can trick your phone into displaying a legitimate-looking number.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.